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Here I Stand 


On an April evening over 400 years ago a simple 
monk faced the emperor of the Holy Roman 
Empire. His words, heard by only a roomful of 
people, have echoed through the centuries: 

Aly conscience is captive to the IVord of God. 
I cannot and I c u:ill not recant any thin g^ -for to 
go against conscience is neither right nor safe. 
Here I stand. 

Because he took his stand, Martin Luther shat- 
tered the structure of medieval Catholicism and 
initiated Protestantism. 

This authoritative, dramatic biography of 
Alartin Luther interprets his experience, his work, 
writings, and lasting contributions. \Vith sound 
historical scholarship and with keen insight into 
Luther's religious problems and values it re- 
creates the spiritual setting of the sixteenth cen- 
tury 7 ', shows Luther's place within it and his 
influence upon it, and brings the spirit and mes- 
sage of Martin Luther to life today. 

Here 1 Stand is richly illustrated with wood- 
cuts and engravings from Luther's own time 
satirical cartoons-, ornamented title pages of tracts 
and books, including Luther's Bible; and por- 
traits of the leaders in the political and religious 
struggle. It is rich also in information and quota- 
tion from firsthand sources selected from the 
whole range of extant sixteenth-century German 
writings, including some hitherto unused in any 
studies in English. This is a significant contribu- 
tion to Protestant faith a vivid, discerning por- 
trayal of the man who, because of unshakable 
faith in his God, could face his accusers and say: 
"Here 1 stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help 


Roland H. Bainton 


New York Nashville 



AH rigbts in tbis book^ are reserved. ^ No part o the 
teact may be reproduced In any form ^ritho'ut -written per- 
mission of tbe publishers, except brief quotations used 
in connection -with reviews in magazines or newspapers. 

JttX tjy. MtllTTED, AND BOTTfl> BY THE 


To my 


PORTIONS of this book have been delivered as the Nathaniel Tay- 
lor lectures at the Yale Divinity School, the Carew Lectures at the 
Hartford Seminary Foundation, and the Hein Lectures at the Wart- 
burg Seminary and Capital University, as well as at the Bonebrake 
Theological Seminary, the Gettysburg Theological Seminary, and 
the Divinity School of Howard University. For many courtesies on 
the part of these institutions I am indebted. 

I also thank the firm of J. C. B. Mohr at Tubingen for permis- 
sion to reprint as Chapter XXI the article which appeared in the 
Gerhard Ritter Festschrift, and the Westminster Press for permis- 
sion to use in condensed form certain portions from my Martin 
Luther Christmas Book. 

Extensive travel and borrowing for this work have not been 
necessary because the Yale library is so richly supplied and so 
generous in acquiring new material. Especially to Mr. Babb, Mr. 
Wing, and Mr. Tinker hearty thanks are tendered by Alartin Luther. 


L THE Vow 21 














VI. THE SAXON Hus 102 








































































BIBLIOGRAPHY . . * . . 387 



INDEX .....411 



Woodcuts of School Scenes of Luther's Day 23 

A Student Wearing the Donkey Mask 24 

Hans and Margaretta Luther by Cranach 26 

Fiends Tempting a Dying Man to Abandon Hope 29 

Christ the Judge Sitting upon the Rainbow 31 

View of the City of Erfurt 32 

Sixteenth-Century Monks in a Choir 35 

The Augustinian Cloister Luther Entered as a Monk 38 

Celebrating the Mass in Luther's Time . . 40 

Illustration from Luther's Bible of 1522 43 

Monks of the Sixteenth Century 46-49 

Wittenberg in 1627 53 

Illustrated Title Page of Luther's Bible of 1541 61 

Cranach's "Frederick the Wise Adoring the Virgin and Child" . . 70 
A Holbein Cartoon Showing True and False Repentance .... 72-73 

Portrait of Albert of Brandenburg 75 

Cartoon Showing the Hawking of Indulgences 77 

The Vendor and His Indulgences 78 

The Castle Church at Wittenberg 79 

Cartoon Showing Forgiveness of Christ Outweighing 

Indulgences from the Pope 81 

Spalatin and the Crucified Christ 91 

1556 Woodcut of Luther's Interview with Cajetan 94 

The Pope as an Ass Playing Bagpipes 96 

Reversible Cartoon of Cardinal and Fool 97 

Portrait of Philip Melanchthon by Aldegrever 106 



Portrait of John Eck 107 

Fifteenth-Century Cartoon of Antichrist 110 

Woodcut of the Leipzig Debate by a Contemporary 113 

Luther and Hus Administer the Bread and Wine to the House of 

Saxony ,118 

Luther Depicted as the German Hercules by Holbein 122 

Diirer's "Melancolia" facing 128 

Luther and Hutten as Companions in Arms 130 

Cartoon Showing Luther and Hutten Bowling Against the Pope . 131 

TheEbernburg 132 

Title Page of the Bull Against Luther 146 

Title Page of Luther's Address to the German Nobility 153 

"The Passion of Christ and Antichrist" 156 

Title Page of Hutten's Protest Against the Burning of Luther's 

Books at Mainz 159 

Luther Burning the Papal Bull 165 

Title Page of Hutten's Satire on the Bull Against Luther 168 

The Diet of Worms and the Public Peace 171 

Portrait of Aleander 173 

Luther with a Dove Above His Head 174 

Luther's First Hearing at Worms 182 

Luther's Second Hearing at Worms 187 

The Wartburg 193 

Luther as Junker George at the Wartburg 194 

Luther as the Evangelist Matthew Translating the Scriptures . . . 196 

Marriage of Bishops, Monks, and Nuns 199 

A Cartoon Against the Image Breakers 207 

Portrait of Frederick the Wise 211 

Portrait of Luther 222 

Title Page of Luther's Tract On the Freedom of the Christian Man . 229 

Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem 233 


A Father of a Household at Work 235 

From the Title Page of Luther's Tract On Usury 236 

Frederick the Wise and Luther Kneeling Before the Crucified Christ 248 

Portrait of Duke George 251 

Portrait of Thomas Miintzer 260 

Peasants Swearing Allegiance to the Bund 271 

A Prophecy of Convulsion in 1524 272 

Peasants Plundering a Cloister 275 

Peasants About to Take Over a Cloister 276 

Title Page of Luther's Tract Against the Murderous and Thieving 

Hordes of Peasants 279 

Surrender of the Upper Swabian Peasants 282-83 

Luther Instructs the Peasants 284 

Luther in Armor Prepares to Put on the Peasants' Boot 285 

A Peasant Taxes Luther as Double-Tongued 285 

A Wedding Party in Front of the Church 289 

Katherine and Martin in the Year of Their Marriage 291 

The Luther Household at Table 294 

Cartoon of 1529 Showing Luther as a Seven-Headed Monster . . , 297 

Christ Disarms the Pope 306 

Luther and Lucifer in League 307 

The Devil Delivers a Declaration of War to Luther 308 

The Signatures at the Marlburg Colloquy 321 

Cranach's "Jacob Wrestling with the Angel" 328 

Lemberger's "Jacob Wrestling with the Angel" 329 

The Whore of Babylon in Three Editions of Luther's Bible . . 332-33 

Four Cuts Illustrating the Catechism 338 

Sample of Luther's Hymnbook 343 

Songs Praising Luther and Melanchthon 345 

Evangelical and Catholic Services Contrasted 349 

Illustration of the Nativity from Luther's Bible 353 


Martyrdom of Heinrich of Zuetphen 360 

Devil and Death Harass a Soul in an Unfinished Cranach Drawing . 364 

Luther from the Copper Plate by Daniel Hopfer (1523) . . . . 366 

"A Mighty Fortress" in Luther's Hand 371 

"The Anabaptist Preacher" Adapted from the Title Page of Hosea 

in Luther's Bible 376 

The Lower Magistrate: John Frederick, Elector of Saxony . . . 381 

Luther in the Year of His Death 383 



1483 November 10 Birth of Martin Luther at Eisleben 

1484 early summer Family moved to Alansfeld 

1497 about Easter Luther goes to school at Magdeburg 

1498 Luther goes to school at Eisenach 

1501 May Matriculation at Erfurt 

1502 September 29 Bachelor of Arts 
1505 January 7 Master of Arts 

July 2 Thunderstorm and vow 

July 17 Enters Augustinian cloister at Erfurt 

1507 May 2 First mass 

1508 winter Teaches one semester at Wittenberg 

1509 October Return to Erfurt 

1510 November Journey to Rome 

1511 early April Return to Erfurt; transfer to Wittenberg 

1512 October 19 Doctor of Theology 

1513 August 16 Lectures on Psalms begin 

1515 April Lectures on Romans begin 

1516 September 7 Lectures on Romans end 
October 27 Lectures on Galatians begin 

1517 October 31 Posting the ninety-five theses 

1518 April 26 Disputation at Heidelberg 
July Prierias attacks Luther 
August 5 Maximilian writes to the pope 
August 7 The pope cites Luther to Rome 
August 8 Luther appeals to Frederick 
August 25 Melanchthon arrives 

August 31 Luther's reply to Prierias 

September 26 Luther starts for Augsburg 

October 12-14 Interview with Cajetan 

October 20-21 Flight from Augsburg 
October 30 ' Back in Wittenberg 

November 8 The bull Cum Postquam 

November 28 Luther appeals to a general council 



December 2 
December 18 

1519 January 4-6 
January 12 
June 28 
July 4-14 

1520 January 
June 11 

June 15 

October 6 

1520 October 10 
November 4 
November 12 

November 28 
December 10 
December 17 

1521 January 3 

January 5 
January 27 
February 10 
February 13 
February 14 
February 17 
February 19 
February 22 
March 2 
March 6 
March 8 
March 26 
April 10 

Ready to go into exile 

Frederick will not banish Luther 

Interview of Luther with Miltitz 

Death of Emperor Maximilian 

Election of Charles V 

Leipzig debate between Luther and Eck 

Hutten and Sickingen offer Luther help 

Sermon on Good Works 

Offer of protection from one hundred knights; 

The Papacy at Rome 
Exsurge Domne gives Luther sixty days to 


Address to the German Nobility 
Babylonian Captivity 
Luther receives the pope's bull 
Charles at Cologne promises a hearing 
Burning of Luther's books at Cologne 
Against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist; On the 

Freedom of the Christian Man 
Luther invited to Worms 
Burning by Luther of the pope's bull 
Invitation to Worms rescinded 
The bull Decet Romanum Pontificum against 

Luther is ready 
Frederick arrives at Worms 
The diet of Worms opens 
The bull against Luther reaches Aleander 
Aleander's three-hour speech; the bull is sent back 
Glapion's attempts at mediation 
Draft of an edict against Luther 
Intense opposition 
Decision to summon Luther 
Second draft of an edict 
Invitation to Luther 

Edict for sequestration of Luther's books ready 
Edict issued 
Glapion reports failure of mission to Hutten and 



April 16 
April 17 
April 18 
April 19 
April 20 
April 23-24 
April 26 
May 4 
May 8 
May 26 
September 22 

November 12 
December 3-4 


December 25 
December 27 
1522 January 6 

February 26 

March 1-6 
May, 1523 
September 14 
March 6 



August 23 

April 18 

Luther in Worms 

First hearing 

Second hearing 

The emperor announces his decision 

Diet requests a committee 

Hearings before the committee 

Luther leaves Worms 

Luther arrives at the Wartburg 

Edict of Worms ready 

Edict of Worms actually issued 

Melanchthon celebrates an evangelical Lord's 

Thirteen monks leave the Augustinian cloister 

Tumult at Wittenberg; Luther's flying trip home 
and return 

Commencement of the New Testament transla- 
tion; work on the Sermon Postils 

Carlstadt gives wine in the mass to laity 

Zwickau prophets in Wittenberg 

Disbanding of the Augustinian Congregation at 

Justus Jonas, minister of the Castle Church at 
Wittenberg, marries 

Luther's return to Wittenberg 

Sickingen's campaign against Trier 

Luther's German New Testament published 

Hadrian VI elected pope 

Edict of the Diet of Niirnberg deferring action 

On Civil Government 

On the Order of Worship 

Burning of the first martyrs of the Reformation 

at Brussels 
Death of Hutten 
Clement VII elected pope 

To the Councilman . . . Christian Schools 
Edict of the second diet of Niirnberg 
Erasmus, On the Freedom of the Will 



1525 January 
April 19 
May 5 
May 5 
May 15 
June 13 

before Christmas 

1526 June 25- 

August 27 

1527 January 





March 22 
March 28 
April 19 
October 1-4 
April 16 
June 25 



1543 January 4 

1545 March 25 

1546 February 18 

Against the Heavenly Prophets 

Twelve articles of the peasants 

Admonition to Peace 

Death of Frederick the Wise 

Against the Robbing and Murdering Horde 

Battle of Frankenhausen; capture of Miintzer 

Crushing of the peasants 

Luther's betrothal to Katherine von Bora 

Open Letter Concerning the Hard Book Against 
the Peasants 

The German Mass 

On the Enslaved Will 

Diet of Speyer defers action on the Edict of 

Exposition of Jonah 

Whether Soldiers Too May Be Saved 

Whether These Words: This Is My Body 

Sickness, intense depression 

Composition of "A Mighty Fortress" 

Instruction -for the Visitors 

Confession of the Lord's Supper 

Protest at the Diet of Speyer 

Marburg Colloquy; German catechism 

Luther at the Coburg 

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession 

Exposition of the Eighty-Second Psalm 

(Death penalty for sedition and blasphemy) 

Warning to His Beloved Germans 

Publication of the complete German Bible 

Wittenberg Concord with the Swiss 

Outbreak of Anabaptists at Miinster 

Melanchthon's memorandum on the death pen- 
alty for peaceful Anabaptists 

Bigamy of the Landgrave Philip 

Against the Jews 

Publication of the Genesis Commentary (lec- 
tures delivered from 1535-1545) 

Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the 

Luther's death at Eisleben 



THE Vow 

N A SULTRY DAY in July of the year 1505 a- 
lonely traveler was trudging over a parched 
road on the outskirts of the Saxon village of 
Stotternheim. He was a young man, short but 
sturdy, and wore the dress of a university 
student. As he approached the village, the 
sky became overcast. Suddenly there was a 
shower, then a crashing storm. A bolt of 
iightning rived the gloom and knocked the man to the ground. Strug- 
gling to rise, he cried in terror, "St. Anne help me! I will become a 

The man who thus called upon a saint was later to repudiate the 
cult of the saints. He who vowed to become a monk was later to 
renounce monasticism. A loyal son of the Catholic Church, he 
was later to shatter the structure of medieval Catholicism. A 
devoted servant of the pope, he was later to identify the popes with 
Antichrist. For this young man was Martin Luther. 

His demolition was the more devastating because it reinforced 
disintegrations already in progress. Nationalism was in process of 
breaking the political unities when the Reformation destroyed the 
religious. Yet this paradoxical figure revived the Christian conscious- 
ness of Europe. In his day, as Catholic historians all agree, the popes 
of the Renaissance were secularized, flippant, frivolous, sensual, 
magnificent, and unscrupulous. The intelligentsia did not revolt 
against the Church because the Church was so much of their mind 
and mood as scarcely to warrant a revolt. Politics were emancipated 



from any concern for the faith to such a degree that the Most 
Christian King of France and His Holiness the Pope did not disdain 
a military alliance with the Sultan against the Holy Roman Em- 
peror. Luther changed all this. Religion became again a dominant 
factor even in politics for another century and a half. Men cared 
enough for the faith to die for it and to kill for it. If there is any 
sense remaining of Christian civilization in the West, this man Luther 
in no small measure deserves the credit. 

Very naturally he is a controversial figure. The multitudinous 
portrayals fall into certain broad types already delineated in his own 
generation. His followers hailed him as the prophet of the Lord 
and the deliverer of Germany. His opponents on the Catholic side 
called him the son of perdition and the demolisher of Christendom. 
The agrarian agitators branded him as the sycophant of the princes, 
and the radical sectaries compared him to Moses, who led the chil- 
dren of Israel out of Egypt and left them to perish in the 
wilderness. But such judgments belong to an epilogue rather than 
a prologue. The first endeavor must be to understand the man. 

One will not move far in this direction unless one recognizes at 
the outset that Luther was above all else a man of religion. The 
great outward crises of his life which bedazzle the eyes of dramatic 
biographers were to Luther himself trivial in comparison with the 
inner upheavals of his questing after God. For that reason this 
study may appropriately begin with his first acute religious crisis 
in 1505 rather than with his birth in 1483. Childhood and youth 
will be drawn upon only to explain the entry into the monastery. 


The vow requires interpretation because even at this early point 
in Luther's career judgments diverge. Those who deplore his sub- 
sequent repudiation of the vow explain his defection on the ground 
that he ought never to have taken it. Had he ever been a true 
monk, he would not have abandoned the cowl. His critique of 
monasticism is made to recoil upon himself in that he is painted as 
a monk without vocation, and the vow is interpreted, not as a genuine 



call, but rather as the resolution of an inner conflict, an escape from 
maladjustment at home and at school. 

A few sparse items of evidence are adduced in favor of this ex- 
planation. They are not of the highest reliability because they are 

all taken from the conversa- 
tion of the older Luther as re- 
corded, often inaccurately, by 

Hit* Jj^Ji his students; and even if they are 

genuine, they cannot be accepted 
at face value because the Prot- 
estant Luther was no longer in 
a position to recall objectively 
the motives of his Catholic period. 
Really there is only one saying 
which connects the taking of the 
cowl with resentment against 
parental discipline. Luther is re- 
ported to have said, "My mother caned me 
for stealing a nut, until the blood came. 
Such strict discipline drove me to the mon- 
astery, although she meant it well." This 
saying is reinforced by two others: "My 
father once whipped me so that I ran away 
and felt ugly toward him until he was at 
pains to win me back." "[At school] I was 
caned in a single morning fifteen times for 
nothing at all. I was required to decline 
and conjugate and hadn't learned my les- 


Unquestionably the young were rough- 
ly handled in those days, and Luther may be correctly reported as 
having cited these instances in order to bespeak a more humane 
treatment, but there is no indication that such severity produced more 
than a flash of resentment. Luther was highly esteemed at home. His 
parents looked to him as a lad of brilliant parts who should become a 



jurist, make a prosperous marriage, and support them in their old age. 
When Luther became a Master of Arts, his father presented him with a 
copy of the Corpus Juris and addressed him no longer with the 
familiar Du but with the polite Sie. Luther always exhibited an 
extraordinary devotion to his father and was grievously disturbed 
over parental disapproval of his entry into the monastery. When 
his father died, Luther was too unnerved to work for several days. 
The attachment to the mother appears to have been less marked; 
but even of the thrashing he said that it was well intended, and he 
recalled affectionately a little ditty she used to sing: 

If folk don't like you and me, 
The fault with us is like to be. 

The schools also were not tender, but neither were they brutal. 
The object was to impart a spoken knowledge of the Latin tongue. 
The boys did not resent this because Latin was useful the language 



of the Church, of law, diplomacy, international relations, scholar- 
ship, and travel. The teaching was by drill punctuated with the rod. 
One scholar, called a lupus or wolf, was appointed to spy on the 
others and report lapses into German. The poorest scholar in the 
class every noon was given a donkey mask, hence called the asinus, 
which he wore until he caught another talking German. Demerits 
were accumulated and accounted for by birching at the end of the 
week. Thus one might have fifteen strokes on a single day. 

But, despite all the severities, the boys did learn Latin and loved 
it. Luther, far from being alienated, was devoted to his studies and 
became highly proficient. The teachers were no brutes. One of 
them, Trebonius, on entering the classroom always bared his head 
in the presence of so many future burgomasters, chancellors, doc- 
tors, and regents. Luther respected his teachers and was grieved 
when they did not approve of his subsequent course. 

Nor was he prevailingly depressed, but ordinarily rollicking, fond 
of music, proficient on the lute, and enamored of the beauty of 
the German landscape. How fair in retrospect was Erfurt! The 
woods came down to the fringes of the village to be continued 
by orchards and vineyards, and then the fields which supplied the 
dye industry of Germany with plantings of indigo, blue-flowered 
flax, and yellow saffron; and nestling within the brilliant rows lay 
the walls, the gates, the steeples of many-spired Erfurt. Luther called 
her a new Bethlehem. 


Yet Luther was at times severely depressed, and the reason lay 
not in any personal frictions but in the malaise of existence inten- 
sified by religion. This man was no son of the Italian Renaissance, 
but a German born in remote Thuringia, where men of piety still 
reared churches with arches and spires straining after the illimitable. 
Luther was himself so much a gothic figure that his faith may be 
called the last great flowering of the religion of the Middle Ages. 
And he came from the most religiously conservative element of 



the population, the peasants. His father, Hans Luther, and his 
mother, Margaretta, were sturdy, stocky, swarthy German Bauern. 
They were not indeed actually engaged in the tilling of the soil 
because as a son without inheritance Hans had moved from the 
farm to the mines. In the bowels of the earth he had prospered 
with the help of St. Anne, the patroness of miners, until he had 



come to be the owner of half a dozen foundries; yet he was not 
unduly affluent, and his wife had still to go to the forest and drag 
home the wood. The atmosphere of the family was that of the 
peasantry: rugged, rough, at times coarse, credulous, and devout. 
Old Hans prayed at the bedside of his son, and Margaretta was a 
woman of prayer. 

Certain elements even of old German paganism were blended 
with Christian mythology in the beliefs of these untutored folk. 
For them the woods and winds and water were peopled by elves, 
gnomes, fairies, mermen and mermaids, sprites and witches. Sinister 



spirits would release storms, floods, and pestilence, and would seduce 
mankind to sin and melancholia. Luther's mother believed that they 
played such minor pranks as stealing eggs, milk, and butter; and 
Luther himself was never emancipated from such beliefs. "Many 
regions are inhabited," said he, "by devils. Prussia is full of them, 
and Lapland of witches. In my native country on the top of a 
high mountain called the Pubelsberg is a lake into which if a stone 
be thrown a tempest will arise over the whole region because the 
waters are the abode of captive demons." 

The education in the schools brought no emancipation but rather 
reinforced the training of the home. In the elementary schools the 
children were instructed in sacred song. They learned by heart 
the Sanctus, the Benedictus, the Agnus Dei, and the Confiteor. They 
were trained to sing psalms and hymns. How Luther loved the 
Magnificat! They attended masses and vespers, and took part in the 
colorful processions of the holy days. Each town in which Luther 
went to school was full of churches and monasteries. Everywhere 
it was the same: steeples, spires, cloisters, priests, monks of the 
various orders, collections of relics, ringing of bells, proclaiming 
of indulgences, religious processions, cures at shrines. Daily at Mans- 
feld the sick were stationed beside a convent in the hope of cure 
at the tolling of the vesper bell. Luther remembered seeing a devil 
actually depart from one possessed. 

The University of Erfurt brought no change. The institution at 
that time had not yet been invaded by Renaissance influences. The 
classics in the curriculum, such as Vergil, had always been favorites 
in the Middle Ages. Aristotelian physics was regarded as an exercise 
in thinking God's thoughts after him, and the natural explanations 
of earthquakes and thunderstorms did not preclude occasional direct 
divine causation. The studies all impinged on theology, and the 
Master's degree for which Luther was preparing for the law could 
have equipped him equally for the cloth. The entire training of 
home, school, and university was designed to instill fear of God 
and reverence for the Church. 



In all this there is nothing whatever to set Luther off from his 
contemporaries, let alone to explain why later on he should have 
revolted against so much of medieval religion. There is just one 
respect in whiph Luther appears to have been different from other 
youths of his time, namely, in that he was extraordinarily sensitive 
and subject to recurrent periods of exaltation and depression of 
spirit. This oscillation of mood plagued him throughout his life. 
He testified that it began in his youth and that the depressions had 
been acute in the six months prior to his entry into the monastery. 
One cannot dismiss these states as occasioned merely by adoles- 
cence, since he was then twenty-one and similar experiences con- 
tinued throughout his adult years. Neither can one blithely write 
off the case as an example of manic depression, since the patient 
exhibited a prodigious and continuous capacity for work of a high 

The explanation lies rather in the tensions which medieval religion 
deliberately induced, playing alternately upon fear and hope. Hell 
was stoked, not because men lived in perpetual dread, but precisely 
because they did not, and in order to instill enough fear to drive 
them to the sacraments of the Church. If they were petrified with 
terror, purgatory was introduced by way of mitigation as an inter- 
mediate place where those not bad enough for hell nor good enough 
for heaven might make further expiation. If this alleviation inspired 
complacency, the temperature was advanced on purgatory, and 
then the pressure was again relaxed through indulgences. 

Even more disconcerting than the fluctuation of the temperature 
of the afterlife was the oscillation between wrath and mercy on 
the part of the members of the divine hierarchy. God was portrayed 
now as the Father, now as the wielder of the thunder. He might 
be softened by the intercession of his kindlier Son, who again was 
delineated as an implacable judge unless mollified by his mother, 
who, being a woman, was not above cheating alike God and the 
Devil on behalf of her suppliants; and if she were remote, one could 
enlist her mother, St. Anne, 

How these themes were presented is graphically illustrated in the 



most popular handbooks in the very age of the Renaissance. The 
theme was death; and the best sellers gave instructions, not on how 
to pay the income tax, but on how to escape hell. Manuals entitled 
On the Art of Dying depicted in lurid woodcuts the departing spirit 
surrounded by fiends who 
tempted him to commit the 
irrevocable sin of abandoning 
hope in God's mercy. To con- 
vince him that he was al- 
ready beyond pardon he was 
confronted by the w T oman 
with whom he had committed 
adultery or the beggar he had 
failed to feed. A companion 
woodcut then gave encour- 
agement by presenting the 
figures of forgiven sinners: 
Peter with his cock, Mary 
Magdalene with her cruse, the 
penitent thief, and Saul the 
persecutor, with the conclud- 
ing brief caption, "Never 

If this conclusion minis- 
tered to complacency, other presentations invoked dread. 
A book strikingly illustrative of the prevailing mood is a 
history of the world published by Hartmann Schedel in Niirn- 
berg in 1493. The massive folios, after recounting the history of 
mankind from Adam to the humanist Conrad Celtes, conclude 
with a meditation on the brevity of human existence accompanied 
by a woodcut of the dance of death. The final scene displays the 
day of judgment. A full-page woodcut portrays Christ the Judge 
sitting upon a rainbow. A lily extends from his right ear, signifying 
the redeemed, who below are being ushered by angels into paradise. 
From his left ear protrudes a sword, symbolizing the doom of the 




damned, whom the devils drag by the hair from the tombs and 
cast into the flames of hell. How strange, comments a modern 
editor, that a chronicle published in the year 1493 should end with 
the judgment day instead of the discovery of America! Dr. Schedel 
had finished his manuscript in June. Columbus had returned the 
previous March. The news presumably had not yet reached Niirnberg. 
By so narrow a margin Dr. Schedel missed this amazing scoop. "What 
an extraordinary value surviving copies of the Chronicle would have 
today if it had recorded the great event!" 

So writes the modern editor. But old Dr. Schedel, had he known, 
might not have considered the finding of a new world worthy of 
record. He could scarcely have failed to know of the discovery of the 
Cape of Good Hope in 1488. Yet he never mentioned it. The reason 
is that he did not think of history as the record of humanity expand- 
ing upon earth and craving as the highest good more earth in which 
to expand. He thought of history as the sum of countless pilgrimages 
through a vale of tears to the heavenly Jerusalem. Every one of 
those now dead would some day rise and stand with the innumerable 
host of the departed before the judgment seat to hear the words, 
"Well done," or, "Depart from me into everlasting fire." The 
Christ upon the rainbow with the lily and the sword was a most 
familiar figure in the illustrated books of the period. Luther had 
seen pictures such as these and testified that he was utterly terror- 
stricken at the sight of Christ the Judge. 


Like everyone else in the Middle Ages he knew what to do. about 
his plight. The Church taught that no sensible person would wait 
until his deathbed to make an act of contrition and plead for grace. 
From beginning to end the only secure course was to lay hold of 
every help the Church had to offer: sacraments, pilgrimages, indul- 
gences, the intercession of the saints. Yet foolish was the man who 
relied solely on the good offices of the heavenly intercessors if 
he had done nothing to insure their favor! 




And what better could he do than take the cowl? Men belie\ 
the end of the world already had been postponed for the sake 
the Cistercian monks. Christ had just "bidden the angel blow 
trumpet for the Last Judgment, when the Mother of Mercy J 
at the feet of her Son and besought Him to spare awhile, 'at k 


for my friends of the Cistercian Order, that they may prep: 
themselves.* " The very devils complained of St. Benedict as 
robber who had stolen souls out of their hands. He who died in 
cowl would receive preferential treatment in heaven because 
his habit. Once a Cistercian in a high fever cast off his frock a 
so died. Arriving at the gate of Paradise he was denied entry 
St. Benedict because of the lack of uniform. He could only w 
around the walls and peep in through the windows to see how 
brethren fared, until one of them interceded for him, and 
Benedict granted a reprieve to earth for the missing garment. . 



this was of course popular piety. However much such crude notions 
might be deprecated by reputable theologians, this was what the 
common man believed, and Luther was a common man. Yet even 
St. Thomas Aquinas himself declared the taking of the cowl to be 
second baptism, restoring the sinner to the state of innocence which 
he enjoyed when first baptized. The opinion was popular that if 
the monk should sin thereafter, he was peculiarly privileged because 
in his case repentance would bring restoration to the state of inno- 
cence. Monasticism was the way par excellence to heaven. 

Luther knew all this. Any lad with eyes in his head understood 
what monasticisrn was all about. Living examples were to be seen 
on the streets of Erfurt. Here were young Carthusians, mere lads, 
already aged by their austerities. At Magdeburg, Luther looked 
upon the emaciated Prince William of Anhalt, who had forsaken 
the halls of the nobility to become a begging friar and walk the 
streets carrying the sack of the mendicant. Like any other brother 
he did the manual work of the cloister. "With my own eyes I saw 
him," said Luther. "I was fourteen years old at Magdeburg. I saw 
him carrying the sack like a donkey. He had so worn himself down 
by fasting and vigil that he looked like a death's-head, mere bone 
and skin. No one could look upon him without feeling ashamed 
of his own life." 

Luther knew perfectly well why youths should make themselves 
old and nobles should make themselves abased. This life is only a 
brief period of training for the life to come, where the saved will 
enjoy an eternity of bliss and the damned will suffer everlasting 
torment. With their eyes they will behold the despair which can 
never experience the mercy of extinction. With their ears they will 
hear the moans of the damned. They will inhale sulphurous fumes 
and writhe in incandescent but unconsuming flame. All this will 
last forever and forever and forever. 

These were the ideas on which Luther had been nurtured. There 
was nothing peculiar in his beliefs or his responses save their inten- 
sity. His depression over the prospect of death was acute but by 



no means singular. The man who was later to revolt against monas- 
ticism became a monk for exactly the same reason as thousands 
of others, namely, in order to save his soul. The immediate occasion 
of his resolve to enter the cloister was the unexpected encounter 
with death on that sultry July day in 1505. He was then twenty-one 
and a student at the University of Erfurt. As he returned to school 
after a visit with his parents, sudden lightning struck him to earth. 
In that single flash he saw the denouement of the drama of exist- 
ence. There was God the all-terrible, Christ the inexorable, and all 
the leering fiends springing from their lurking places in pond and 
wood that with sardonic cachinnations they might seize his shock 
of curly hair and bolt him into hell. It was no wonder that he cried 
out to his father's saint, patroness of miners, "St. Anne help me! 
I will become a monk." 

Luther himself repeatedly averred that he believed himself to 
have been summoned by a call from heaven to which he could 
not be disobedient. Whether or not he could have been absolved 
from his vow, he conceived himself to be bound by it. Against 
his own inclination, under divine constraint, he took the cowl. 
Two weeks were required to arrange his affairs and to decide what 
monastery to enter. He chose a strict one, the reformed congre- 
gation of the Augustinians. After a farewell party with a few friends 
he presented himself at the monastery gates. News was then sent 
to his father, who was highly enraged. This was the son, educated 
in stringency, who should have supported his parents in their old 
age. The father was utterly unreconciled until he saw in the deaths 
of two other sons a chastisement for his rebellion. 

Luther presented himself as a novice. From no direct evidence 
but from the liturgy of the Augustinians we are able to reconstruct 
the scene of his reception. As the prior stood upon the steps 
of the altar, the candidate prostrated himself. The prior asked, 
"What seekest thou?" The answer came, "God's grace and thy 
mercy." Then the prior raised him up and inquired whether he 
was married, a bondsman, or afflicted with secret disease. The answer 
being negative, the prior described the rigors of the life to be 



undertaken: the renunciation of self-will, the scant diet, rough 
clothing, vigils by night and labors by day, mortification of the 
flesh, the reproach of poverty, the shame of begging, and the dis- 
tastefulness of cloistered existence. Was he ready to take upon 
himself these burdens? "Yes, with God's help," was the answer, 
"and in so far as human frailty allows." Then he was admitted to 
a year of probation. As the choir chanted, the head was tonsured. 
Civilian clothes were exchanged for the habit of the novice. The 
initiate bowed the knee. "Bless thou thy servant," intoned the prior. 
"Hear, O Lord, our heartfelt pleas and deign to confer thy bless- 
ing on this thy servant, w r hom in thy holy name we have clad in 
the habit of a monk, that he may continue with thy help faithful 
in thy Church and merit eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen." During the singing of the closing hymn Luther prostrated 
himself with arms extended in the form of a cross. He was then 
received into the convent by the brethren with the kiss of peace 
and again admonished by the prior with the words, "Not he that 
hath begun but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." 

The meaning of Luther's entry into the monastery is simply this, 
that the great revolt against the medieval Church arose from a 



desperate attempt to follow the way by her prescribed, Just as 
Abraham overcame human sacrifice only through his willingness 
to lift the sacrificial knife against Isaac, just as Paul was emanci- 
pated from Jewish legalism only because as a Hebrew of the Hebrews 
he had sought to fulfill all righteousness, so Luther rebelled out of 
a more than ordinary devotion. To the monastery he went like 
others, and even more than others, in order to make his peace with 



UTHER in later life remarked that during the 
first year in the monastery the Devil is very 
quiet. We have every reason to believe that 
his own inner tempest subsided and that dur- 
ing his novitiate he was relatively placid. This 
may be inferred from the mere fact that at 
the end of the year he was permitted to make 
his profession. The probationary period was 
intended to give the candidate an opportunity to test himself and to 
be tested. He was instructed to search his heart and declare any mis- 
givings as to his fitness for the monastic calling. If his companions 
and superiors believed him to have no vocation, they would reject 
him. Since Luther was accepted, we may safely assume that neither he 
nor his brethren saw any reason to suppose that he was not adapted 
to the monastic life. 

His days as a novice were occupied with those religious exercises 
designed to suffuse the soul with peace. Prayers came seven times 
daily. After eight hours of sleep the monks were awakened between 
one and two in the morning by the ringing of the cloister bell. At the 
first summons they sprang up, made the sign of the cross, and pulled 
on the white robe and the scapular without which the brother was 
never to leave his cell. At the second bell each came reverently to the 
church, sprinkled himself with holy water, and knelt before the high 
altar with a prayer of devotion to the Saviour of the world. Then all 
took their places in the choir. Matins lasted three quarters of an hour. 
Each of the seven periods of the day ended with the chanting by the 



cantor of the Salve Regina: "Save, O Queen, Thou Mother of mercy, 
our life, our delight, and our hope. To Thee we exiled sons of Eve 
lift up our cry. To Thee we sigh as we languish in this vale of tears. 
Be Thou our advocate. Sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us, Thou holy 
Mother of God." After the Ave Maria and the Pater Noster the 
brothers in pairs silently filed out of the church. 

With such exercises the day was filled. Brother Martin was sure 
that he was walking in the path the saints had trod. The occasion 
of his profession filled him with joy that the brothers had found him 
worthy of continuing. At the foot of the prior he made his dedication 
and heard the prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, who didst deign to clothe 
thyself in our mortality, we beseech thee out of thine immeasurable 
goodness to bless the habit which the holy fathers have chosen as a 
sign of innocence and renunciation. May this thy servant, Martin 
Luther, who takes the habit, be clothed also in thine immortality, 
O thou who livest and reignest with God the Father and the Holy 
Ghost, God from eternity to eternity. Amen." 




The solemn vow had been taken. He was a monk, as innocent as 
a child newly baptized. Luther gave himself over with confidence 
to the life which the Church regarded as the surest way of salvation. 
He was content to spend his days in prayer, in song, in meditation 
and quiet companionship, in disciplined and moderate austerity. 


Thus he might have continued had he not been overtaken by 
another thunderstorm, this time of the spirit. The occasion was the 
saying of his first mass. He had been selected for the priesthood by 
his superior and commenced his functions with this initial celebration. 

The occasion was always an ordeal because the mass is the focal 
point of the Church's means of grace. Here on the altar bread and 
wine become the flesh and blood of God, and the sacrifice of Calvary 
is re-enacted. The priest \vho performs the miracle of transforming 
the elements enjoys a power and privilege denied even to angels. 
The \vhole difference between the clergy and the laity rests on this. 
The superiority of the Church over the state likewise is rooted here, 
for what king or emperor ever conferred upon mankind a boon 
comparable to that bestowed by the humblest minister at the altar? 

Well might the young priest tremble to perform a rite by which 
God would appear in human form. But many had done it, and the 
experience of the centuries enabled the manuals to foresee all possible 
tremors and prescribe the safeguards. The celebrant must be con- 
cerned, though not unduly, about the forms. The vestments must be 
correct; the recitation must be correct, in a low voice and without 
stammering. The state of the priest's soul must be correct. Before 
approaching the altar he must have confessed and received absolution 
for all his sins. He might easily worry lest he transgress any of these 
conditions, and Luther testified that a mistake as to the vestments 
was considered worse than the seven deadly sins. But the manuals 
encouraged the trainee to regard no mistake as fatal because the 
efficacy of the sacrament depends only on the right intention to per- 
form it. Even should the priest recall during the celebration a deadly 
sin unconfessed and unabsolved, he should not flee from the altar 



but finish the rite, and absolution would be forthcoming afterward. 
And if nervousness should so assail him that he could not continue, 
an older priest would be at his side to carry on. No insuperable diffi- 
culties faced the celebrant, and we have no reason to suppose that 
Luther approached his first mass with uncommon dread. The post- 


ponement of the date for a month was not due to any serious mis- 

The reason was rather a very joyous one. He wanted his father 
to be present, and the date was set to suit his convenience. The son 
and the father had not seen each other since the university days when 
old Hans presented Martin with a copy of the Roman law and 
addressed him in the polite speech. The father had been vehemently 
opposed to his entry into the monastery, but now he appeared to have 
overcome all resentment and was willing, like other parents, to make 



a gala day of the occasion. With a company of twenty horsemen 
Hans Luther came riding in and made a handsome contribution 
to the monastery. The day began with the chiming of the cloister 
bells and the chanting of the psalm, "O sing unto the Lord a new 
song." Luther took his place before the altar and began to recite 
the introductory portion of the mass until he came to the words, 
"We offer unto thee, the living, the true, the eternal God." He related 

At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to 
myself, "With what tongue shall I address such Majesty, seeing that all 
men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince? Who am 
I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine Maj- 
esty? The angels surround him* At his nod the earth trembles. And shall 
I, a miserable little pygmy, say 'I want this, I ask for that'? For I am dust 
and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal and the 
true God." 

The terror of the Holy, the horror of Infinitude, smote him like a 
new lightning bolt, and only through a fearful restraint could he hold 
himself at the altar to the end. 

The man of our secularized generation may have difficulty in 
understanding the tremors of his medieval forebear. There are in- 
deed elements in the religion of Luther of a very primitive character, 
which hark back to the childhood of the race. He suffered from the 
savage's fear of a malevolent deity, the enemy of men, capricious, 
easily and unwittingly offended if sacred places be violated or 
magical formulas mispronounced. His was the fear of ancient Israel 
before the ark of the Lord's presence. Luther felt similarly toward the 
sacred host of the Saviour's body; and when it was carried in proces- 
sion, panic took hold of him. His God was the God who inhabited 
the storm clouds brooding on the brow of Sinai, into whose presence 
Moses could not enter with unveiled face and live. Luther's experi- 
ence, however, far exceeds the primitive and should not be so unin- 
telligible to the modern man who, gazing upon the uncharted nebulae 


through instruments of his own devising, recoils with a sense of abject 

Luther's tremor was augmented by the recognition of unworthi- 
ness. "I am dust and ashes and full of sin." Creatureliness and im- 
perfection alike oppressed him. Toward God he was at once attracted 
and repelled. Only in harmony with the Ultimate could he find peace. 
But how could a pigmy stand before divine Majesty; how could a 
transgressor confront divine Holiness? Before God the high and God 
the holy Luther was stupefied. For such an experience he had a word 
which has as much right to be carried over into English as Blitz- 
krieg. The word he used was Anfechtung, for which there is no Eng- 
lish equivalent. It may be a trial sent by God to test man, or an 
assault by the Devil to destroy man. It is all the doubt, turmoil, pang, 
tremor, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade 
the spirit of man. 

Utterly limp, he came from the altar to the table where his father 
and the guests would make merry with the brothers. After shudder- 
ing at the unapproachableness of the heavenly Father he now craved 
some word of assurance from the earthly father. How his heart would 
be warmed to hear from the lips of old Hans that his resentment had 
entirely passed, and that he was now cordially in accord with his 
son's decision! They sat down to meat together, and Martin, as if 
he were still a little child, turned and said, "Dear father, why were 
you so contrary to my becoming a monk? And perhaps you are not 
quite satisfied even now. The life is so quiet and godly." 

This was too much for old Hans, who had been doing his best to 
smother his rebellion. He flared up before all the doctors and the 
masters and the guests, "You learned scholar, have you never read in 
the Bible that you should honor your father and your mother? And 
here you have left me and your dear mother to look after ourselves in 
our old age." 

Luther had not expected this. But he knew the answer. All the 
manuals recalled the gospel injunction to forsake father and mother, 
wife and child, and pointed out the greater benefits to be conferred 
in the spiritual sphere. Luther answered, "But, father, I could do you 




more good by prayers than if I had stayed in the world." And then 
he must have added what to him was the clinching argument, that 
he had been called by a voice from heaven out of the thunder cloud. 

"God grant/' said the old Hans, "it was not an apparition of the 

There was the weak spot of all medieval religion. In this day of 
skepticism we look back with nostalgia to the age of faith. How fair 
it would have been to have lived in an atmosphere of naive assurance, 
where heaven lay about the infancy of man, and doubt had not 
arisen to torment the spirit! Such a picture of the Middle Ages is 
sheer romanticism. The medieval man entertained no doubt of the 
supernatural world, but that world itself was divided. There were 
saints, and there were demons. There was God, and there was the 
Devil, And the Devil could disguise himself as an angel of light. 
Had Luther, then, been right to follow a vision which might after all 
have been of the arch fiend, in preference to the plain clear word of 
Scripture to honor father and mother? The day which began with the 
ringing of the cloister chime and the psalm "O sing unto the Lord a 
new song" ended with the horror of the Holy and doubt whether that 
first thunderstorm had been a vision of God or an apparition of Satan. 


This second upheaval of the spirit set up in Luther an inner turmoil 
which was to end in the abandonment of the cowl, but not until 
after a long interval In fact he continued to wear the monastic habit 
for three years after his excommunication. Altogether he was garbed 
as a monk for nineteen years. His development was gradual, and we 
are not to imagine him in perpetual torment and never able to say 
mass without terror. He pulled himself together and went on with 
the appointed round and with whatever new duties were assigned. 
The prior, for example, informed him that he should resume his 
university studies in order to qualify for the post of lector in the 
Augustinian order. He took all such assignments in stride. 

But the problem of the alienation of man from God had been re- 
newed in altered form. Not merely in the hour of death but daily at 



the altar the priest stood in the presence of the All High and the All 
Holy. How could man abide God's presence unless he were himself 
holy? Luther set himself to the pursuit of holiness. Monasticism con- 
stituted such a quest; and while Luther was in the world, he had 
looked upon the cloister in any form as the higher righteousness. But 
after becoming a monk he discovered levels within monasticism it- 
self. Some monks were easygoing; some were strict. Those Carthusian 
lads prematurely old; that prince of Anhalt, mere animated bones 
these were not typical examples. They were the rigorists, heroic ath- 
letes, seeking to take heaven by storm. Whether Luther's call to the 
monastery had been prompted by God or the Devil, he was now a 
monk, and a monk he would be to the uttermost. One of the privileges 
of the monastic life was that it emancipated the sinner from all dis- 
tractions and freed him to save his soul by practicing the counsels of 
perfection not simply charity, sobriety, and love, but chastity, pover- 
ty, obedience, fastings, vigils, and mortifications of the flesh. Whatever 
good works a man might do to save himself, these Luther was re- 
solved to perform. 

He fasted, sometimes three days on end without a crumb. The 
seasons of fasting were more consoling to him than those of feasting. 
Lent was more comforting than Easter. He laid upon himself vigils 
and prayers in excess of those stipulated by the rule. He cast off the 
blankets permitted him and well-nigh froze himself to death. At 
times he was proud of his sanctity and would say, "I have done noth- 
ing wrong today." Then misgivings would arise. "Have you fasted 
enough? Are you poor enough?" He would then strip himself of all 
save that which decency required. He believed in later life that his 
austerities had done permanent damage to his digestion. 

I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I 
may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All 
my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had 
kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, read- 
ing, and other work. 



All such drastic methods gave no sense of inner tranquillity. The 
purpose of his striving was to compensate for his sins, but he could 
never feel that the ledger was balanced. Some historians have there- 
fore asserted that he must have been a very great sinner, and that 
in all likelihood his sins had to do with sex, where 
offenses are the least capable of any rectification. 
But Luther himself declared that this was not a 
particular problem. He had been chaste. While at 
Erfurt he had never even heard a woman in con- 
fession. And later at Wittenberg he had confessed 
only three women, and these he had not seen. 
Of course he was no wood carving, but sexual 
temptation beset him no more than any other problem of the moral 

The trouble was that he could not satisfy God at any point. Com- 
menting in later life on the Sermon on the Mount, Luther gave search- 
ing expression to his disillusionment. Referring to the precepts of 
Jesus he said: 

This word is too high and too hard that anyone should fulfil it. This is 
proved, not merely by our Lord's word, but by our own experience and 
feeling. Take any upright man or woman. He will get along very nicely 
with those who do not provoke him, but let someone proffer only the 
slightest irritation and he will flare up in anger, ... if not against friends, 
then against enemies. Flesh and blood cannot rise above it. 

Luther simply had not the capacity to fulfill the conditions. 


But if he could not, others might. The Church, while taking an in- 
dividualistic view of sin, takes a corporate view of goodness. Sins 
must be accounted for one by one, but goodness can be pooled; and 
there is something to pool because the saints, the Blessed Virgin, and 
the Son of God were better than they needed to be for their own sal- 
vation. Christ in particular, being both sinless and God, is possessed 
of an unbounded store. These superfluous merits of the righteous 



constitute a treasury which is transferable to those whose accounts are 
in arrears. The transfer is effected through the Church and, particular- 
ly, through the pope, to whom as the successor of St. Peter have 
been committed the keys to bind and loose. Such a transfer of credit 
was called an indulgence. 

Precisely how much good it would do had not been definitely de- 
fined, but the common folk were disposed to believe the most ex- 
travagant claims. No one questioned that the pope could draw on 
the treasury in order to remit penalties for sin imposed by himself 
on earth. In fact one would suppose that he could do this by mere 
fiat without any transfer. The important question was whether or 
not he could mitigate the pangs of purgatory. During the decade 
in which Luther was born a pope had declared that the efficacy of 
indulgences extended to purgatory for the benefit of the living and 
the dead alike. In the case of the living there was no assurance of 
avoiding purgatory entirely because God alone knew the extent of 
the unexpiated guilt and the consequent length of the sentence, but 
the Church could tell to the year and the day by how much the 
term could be reduced, whatever it was. And in the case of those al- 
ready dead and in purgatory, the sum of whose wickedness was 
complete and known, an immediate release could be offered. Some 
bulls of indulgence went still further and applied not merely to re- 
duction of penalty but even to the forgiveness of sins. They offered 
a plenary remission and reconciliation with the Most High. 

There were places in which these signal 
mercies were more accessible than in others. For 
no theological reason but in the interest of ad- 
vertising, the Church associated the dispensing of 
the merits of the saints with visitation upon the 
relics of the saints. Popes frequently speci- 
fied precisely how much benefit could 
be derived from viewing each holy bone. 
Every relic of the saints in Halle, for example, was endowed by 
Pope Leo X with an indulgence for the reduction of purgatory by 
four thousand years. The greatest storehouse for such treasures was 



Rome. Here in the single crypt of St. Callistus forty popes were 
buried and 76,000 martyrs. Rome had a piece of Moses' burning bush 
and three hundred particles of the Holy Innocents. Rome had the 
portrait of Christ on the napkin of St. Veronica. Rome had the chains 
of St. Paul and the scissors with which Emperor Domitian clipped 
the hair of St. John. The walls of Rome near the Appian gate showed 
the white spots left by the stones which turned to snowballs when 
hurled by the mob against St. Peter before his time was come. A 
church in Rome had the crucifix which leaned over to talk to St. 
Brigitta. Another had a coin paid to Judas for betraying our Lord. 
Its value had greatly increased, for now it was able to confer an in- 
dulgence of fourteen hundred years. The amount of indulgences to 
be obtained between the Lateran and St. Peter's was greater than 
that afforded by a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Still another church 
in Rome possessed the twelve-foot beam on which Judas hanged 
himself. This, however, was not strictly a relic, and doubt was per- 
mitted as to its authenticity. In front of the Lateran were the Scala 
Smcta, twenty-eight stairs, supposedly those which once stood in 
front of Pilate's palace. He who crawled up them on hands and knees, 
repeating a Pater Noster for each one, could thereby release a soul 
from purgatory. Above all, Rome had the entire 
bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul. They had been 
divided to distribute the benefits among the 
churches. The heads were in the Lateran, and 
one half of the body of each had been deposited 
in their respective churches. No city on earth 
was so plentifully supplied with holy relics, and 
no city on earth was so richly endowed with 
spiritual indulgences as Holy Rome. 


Luther felt himself to be highly privileged when an opportunity 
presented itself to make a trip to the Eternal City. A dispute had 
arisen in the Augustinian order calling for settlement by the pope. Two 
brothers were sent to the holy city to represent the chapter at Erfurt. 



One of the brothers was Martin Luther. This was in the year 1510. 
The trip to Rome is very revealing of the character of Martin Lu- 
ther. What he saw, and what he did not care to see, throw light upon 
him. He was not interested in the art of the Renaissance. Of course, the 
great treasures were not yet visible. The piers of the new basilica of 
St. Peter's had only just been laid, and the Sistine 
Chapel was not yet completed. But the frescoes 
of Pinturicchio were in view and might have 
awakened his admiration had he not been more 
interested in a painting of the Virgin Mary at- 
tributed to Luke the Evangelist than in all the 
Madonnas of the Renaissance. Again, the ruins 
of antiquity evoked no enthusiasm but served 
only to point the moral that the city founded on fratricide and 
stained with the blood of martyrs had been overthrown by divine 
justice like the Tower of Babel. 

Neither the Rome of the Renaissance nor the Rome of antiquity 
interested Luther so much as the Rome of the saints. The business of 
the order would not be too time-consuming to prevent taking ad- 
vantage of the unusual opportunities to save his soul. Luther's mood 
was that of a pilgrim who at the first sight of the Eternal City crie3, 
"Hail, holy Rome!" He would seek to appropriate for himself and 
his relatives all the enormous spiritual benefits available only there. 
He had but a month in which to do it. The time was strenuously 
spent. He must of course perform the daily devotions of the Au- 
gustinian cloister in which he was lodged, but there remained suf- 
ficient hours to enable him to say the general confession, to celebrate 
mass at sacred shrines, to visit the catacombs and the basilicas, to 
venerate the bones, the shrines, and every holy relic. 

Disillusionments of various sorts set in at once. Some of them were 
irrelevant to his immediate problem but were concomitants in his 
total distress. On making his general confession he was dismayed by 
the incompetence of the confessor. The abysmal ignorance, frivolity, 
and levity of the Italian priests stupefied him. They could rattle 
through six or seven masses while he was saying one. And when he 



was only at the Gospel, they had finished and would say to him, 
"Passa! Passa!" "Get a move on!" The same sort of thing Luther 
could have discovered in Germany if he had emerged from the cloister 
to visit mass priests, whose assignment it was to repeat a specified 
number of masses a day, not for communicants but in behalf of the 
dead. Such a practice lent itself to irreverence. Some of the Italian 
clergy, however, were flippantly unbelieving and would address the 
sacrament saying, "Bread art thou and bread thou wilt remain, and 
wine art thou and wine thou wilt remain." To a devout believer from 
the unsophisticated Northland such disclosures were truly shocking. 
They need not have made him despondent in regard to the validity 
of his own quest because the Church had long taught that the efficacy 
of the sacraments did not depend on the character of the ministrants. 

By a like token the stories that came to Luther's ears of the im- 
morality of the Roman clergy should not logically have undermined 
his faith in the capacity of Holy Rome to confer spiritual benefits. 
At the same time he was horrified to hear that if there were a hell 
Rome was built upon it. He need not have been a scandalmonger to 
know that the district of ill fame was frequented by ecclesiastics. He 
heard there were those who considered themselves virtuous because 
they confined themselves to women. The unsavory memory of Pope 
Alexander VI was still a stench. Catholic historians recognize candid- 
ly the scandal of the Renaissance popes, and the Catholic Reforma- 
tion was as greatly concerned as the Protestant to eradicate such 

Yet all these sorry disclosures did not shatter Luther's confidence 
in the genuine goodness of the faithful. The question was whether 
they had any superfluous merit which could be conveyed to him or 
to his family, and whether the merit was so attached to sacred places 
that visits would confer benefit. This was the point at which doubt 
overtook him. He was climbing Pilate's stairs on hands and knees 
repeating a Pater Noster for each one and kissing each step for good 
measure in the hope of delivering a soul from purgatory. Luther re- 
gretted that his own father and mother were not yet dead and in pur- 
gatory so that he might confer on them so signal a favor. Failing 



that, he had resolved to release Grandpa Heine. The stairs were 
climbed, the Pater N osiers were repeated, the steps were kissed. At 
the top Luther raised himself and exclaimed, not as legend would 
have it, "The just shall live by faith! "he was not yet that far ad- 
vanced. What he said was, "Who knows whether it is so?" 

That was the truly disconcerting doubt. The priests might be guilty 
of levity and the popes of lechery all this would not matter so long 
as the Church had valid means of grace. But if crawling up the very 
stairs on which Christ stood and repeating all the prescribed prayers 
would be of no avail, then another of the great grounds of hope had 
proved to be illusory. Luther commented that he had gone to Rome 
with onions and had returned with garlic. 



ETXJRNING from Rome, Luther came under 
new influences due to a change of residence. 
He was transferred from Erfurt to Witten- 
berg, where he was to pass the remainder of 
his days. In comparison with Erfurt, Witten- 
berg was but a village with a population of 
only 2,000 to 2,500. The whole length of the 
town was only nine tenths of a mile. Contem- 
poraries variously described it as "the gem of Thuringia" and "a stink- 
ing sand dune." It was built on a sand belt and for that reason was 
called the White Hillock, Witten-Berg. Luther never rhapsodized 
over the place, and he addressed to it this ditty: 

Little land, little land, 
You are but a heap of sand. 
If I dig you, the soil is light; 
If I reap you, the yield is slight. 

But as a matter of fact it was not unproductive. Grain, vegetables, 
and fruit abounded, and the near-by woods provided game. The 
river Elbe flowed on one side, and a moat surrounded the town on 
the other. Two brooks were introduced by wooden aqueducts 
through the walls on the upper side and flowed without a cover- 
ing down the two main streets of the town until they united at the 
mill. Open sluggish water was at once convenient and offensive. 
Luther lived in the Augustinian cloister at the opposite end from the 
Castle Church. 

. 52 


The chief glory of the village was the university, the darling of 
the elector, Frederick the Wise, who sought in this newly founded 
academy to rival the prestige of the century-old University of Leip- 
zig. The new foundation had not flourished according to hope, and 
the elector endeavored to secure better teachers by inviting the 
Augustinians and Franciscans to supply three new professors. One 
of them was Luther. This was in 15 11, 

By reason of the move he came to know well a man who was to 
exercise a determinative influence upon his development, the vicar 
of the Augustinian order, Johann von Staupitz. No one better could 
have been found as a spiritual guide. The vicar knew all the cures 
prescribed by the schoolmen for spiritual ailments, and besides had 
a warm religious life of his own with a sympathetic appreciation of 
the distresses of another. "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz," said 
Luther, "I should have sunk in hell." 

Luther's difficulties persisted. A precise delineation of their course 
eludes us. His tremors cannot be said to have mounted in unbroken 
crescendo to a single crisis. Rather he passed through a series of crises 




to a relative stability. The stages defy localization as to time, place, or 
logical sequence. Yet this is clear. Luther probed every resource of 
contemporary Catholicism for assuaging the anguish of a spirit alien- 
ated from God. He tried the way of good works and discovered that 
he could never do enough to save himself. He endeavored to avail 
himself of the merits of the saints and ended with a doubt, not a very 
serious or persistent doubt for the moment, but sufficient to destroy his 


He sought at the same time to explore other ways, and Catholicism 
had much more to offer. Salvation was never made to rest solely nor 
even primarily upon human achievement. The whole sacramental sys- 
tem of the Church was designed to mediate to man God's help and 
favor. Particularly the sacrament of penance afforded solace, not to 
saints but to sinners. This only was required of them, that they should 
confess all their wrongdoing and seek absolution. Luther endeavored 
unremittingly to avail himself of this signal mercy. Without confes- 
sion, he testified, the Devil would have devoured him long ago. He 
confessed frequently, often daily, and for as long as six hours on a 
single occasion. Every sin in order to be absolved was to be confessed. 
Therefore the soul must be searched and the memory ransacked and 
the motives probed. As an aid the penitent ran through the seven 
deadly sins and the Ten Commandments. Luther would repeat a con- 
fession and, to be sure of including everything, would review his en- 
tire life until the confessor grew weary and exclaimed, "Man, God 
is not angry with you. You are angry with God. Don't you know that 
God commands you to hope?" 

This assiduous confessing certainly succeeded in clearing up any 
major transgressions. The leftovers with which Luther kept trotting 
in appeared to Staupitz to be only the scruples of a sick soul. "Look 
here," said he, "if you expect Christ to forgive you, come in with 
something to forgiveparricide, blasphemy, adultery instead of all 
these peccadilloes." 



But Luther's question was not whether his sins were big or little, 
but whether they had been confessed. The great difficulty which he 
encountered was to be sure that everything had been recalled. He 
learned from experience the cleverness of memory in protecting the 
ego, and he was frightened when after six hours of confessing he could 
still go out and think of something else which had eluded his most 
conscientious scrutiny. Still more disconcerting was the discovery 
that some of man's misdemeanors are not even recognized, let alone 
remembered. Sinners often sin without compunction. Adam and Eve, 
after tasting of the fruit of the forbidden tree, went blithely for a 
walk in the cool of the day; and Jonah, after fleeing from the Lord's 
commission, slept soundly in the hold of the ship. Only when each 
was confronted by an accuser was there any consciousness of guilt. 
Frequently, too, when man is reproached he will still justify himself 
like Adam, who replied, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with 
me" as if to say to God, "She tempted me; you gave her to me; you 
are to blame." 

There is, according to Luther, something much more drastically 
wrong with man than any particular list of offenses which can be 
enumerated, confessed, and forgiven. The very nature of man is 
corrupt. The penitential system fails because it is directed to particular 
lapses. Luther had come to perceive that the entire man is in need of 
forgiveness. In the course of this quest he had wrought himself into 
a state of emotional disturbance passing the bounds of objectivity. 
When, then, his confessor said that he was magnifying his misde- 
meanors, Luther could only conclude that the consultant did not un- 
derstand the case and that none of the proffered consolations was of 
any avail. 

In consequence the most frightful insecurities beset him. Panic in- 
vaded his spirit. The conscience became so disquieted as to start and 
tremble at the stirring of a wind-blown leaf. The horror of night- 
mare gripped the soul, the dread of one waking in the dusk to look 
into the eyes of him who has come to take his life. The heavenly 
champions all withdrew; the fiend beckoned with leering summons to 
the impotent soul. These were the torments which Luther repeatedly 



testified were far worse than any physical ailment that he had ever 

His description tallies so well with a recognized type of mental 
malady that again one is tempted to wonder whether his disturbance 
should be regarded as arising from authentic religious difficulties or 
from gastric or glandular deficiencies. The question can better be 
faced when more data become available from other periods of his 
life. Suffice it for the moment to observe that no malady ever impaired 
his stupendous capacity for work; that the problems with which he 
wrestled were not imaginary but implicit in the religion on which he 
had been reared; that his emotional reactions were excessive, as he 
would himself recognize after emerging from a depression; that he 
did make headway in exhausting one by one the helps proffered by 
medieval religion. 

He had arrived at a valid impasse. Sins to be forgiven must be con- 
fessed. To be confessed they must be recognized and remembered. 
If they are not recognized and remembered, they cannot be confessed. 
If they are not confessed, they cannot be forgiven. The only way 
out is to deny the premise. But that Luther was not yet ready to do. 
Staupitz at this point offered real help by seeking to divert his atten- 
tion from individual sins to the nature of man. Luther later on formu- 
lated what he had learned by saying that the physician does not need 
to probe each pustule to know that the patient has smallpox, nor is 
the disease to be cured scab by scab. To focus on particular offenses 
is a counsel of despair. When Peter started to count the waves, he 
sank. The whole nature of man needs to be changed. 


This was the insight of the mystics. Staupitz was a mystic. Although 
the mystics did not reject the penitential system, their way of salva- 
tion was essentially different, directed to man as a whole. Since man 
is weak, let him cease to strive; let him surrender himself to the being 
and the love of God. 

The new life, they said, calls for a period of preparation which 
consists in overcoming all the assertiveness of the ego, all arrogance, 



pride, self-seeking, everything connected with the I, the me, and 
the my. Luther's very effort to achieve merit was a form of assertive- 
ness. Instead of striving he must yield and sink himself in God. The 
end of the mystic way is the absorption of the creature in the creator, 
of the drop in the ocean, of the candle flame in the glare of the sun. 
The straggler overcomes his restlessness, ceases his battering, surren- 
ders himself to the Everlasting, and in the abyss of Being finds his 

Luther tried this way. At times he was lifted up as if he were amid 
choirs of angels, but the sense of alienation would return. The mystics 
knew this too. They called it the dark night of the soul, the dryness, 
the withdrawing of the fire from under the pot until it no longer 
bubbles. They counseled waiting until exaltation would return. For 
Luther it did not return because the enmity between man and God 
is too great. For all his impotence, man is a rebel against his Maker. 

The acuteness of Luther's distress arose from his sensitivity at once 
to all the difficulties by which man has ever been beset. Could he have 
taken them one at a time, each might the more readily have been 
assuaged. For those who are troubled by particular sins the Church 
offers forgiveness through the penitential system, but pardon is made 
contingent upon conditions which Luther found unattainable. For 
those too weak to meet the tests there is the mystic way of ceasing to 
strive and of losing oneself in the abyss of the Godhead. But Luther 
could not envisage God as an abyss hospitable to man the impure. 
God is holy, majestic, devastating, consuming. 

Do you not know that God dwells in light inaccessible? We weak and 
ignorant creatures want to probe and understand the incomprehensible 
majesty of the unfathomable light of the wonder of God. We approach; 
we prepare ourselves to approach. What wonder then that his majesty 
overpowers us and shatters! 

So acute had Luther's distress become that even the simplest helps 
of religion failed to bring him heartsease. Not even prayer could 
quiet his tremors; for when he was on his knees, the Tempter would 
come and say, "Dear fellow, what are you praying for? Just see how 



quiet it is about you here. Do you think that God hears your prayer 
and pays any attention?" 

Staupitz tried to bring Luther to see that he was making religion 
altogether too difficult. There is just one thing needful, and that is to 
love God. This was another favorite counsel of the mystics, but the 
intended word of comfort pierced like an arrow. How could anyone 
love a God who is a consuming fire? The psalm says, "Serve the Lord 
with fear." Who, then, can love a God angry, judging, and damning? 
Who can love a Christ sitting on a rainbow, consigning the damned 
souls to the flames of hell? The mere sight of a crucifix was to Luther 
like a stroke of lightning. He would flee, then, from the angry Son 
to the merciful Mother. He would appeal to the saints twenty-one 
of them he had selected as his especial patrons, three for each day of 
the week. All to no avail, for of what use is any intercession if God 
remains angry? 

The final and the most devastating doubt of all assailed the young 
man. Perhaps not even God himself is just. This misgiving arose in 
two forms, depending on the view of God's character and behavior. 
Basic to both is the view that God is too absolute to be conditioned by 
considerations of human justice. The late scholastics, among whom 
Luther had been trained, thought that God is so unconditioned that 
he is bound by no rules save those of his own making. He is under 
no obligation to confer reward on man's achievements, no matter how 
meritorious. Normally God may be expected to do so, but there is no 
positive certitude. For Luther this meant that God is capricious and 
man's fate is unpredictable. The second view was more disconcerting 
because it held that man's destiny is already determined, perhaps 
adversely. God is so absolute that nothing can be contingent. Man's 
fate has been decreed since the foundation of the world, and in large 
measure also man's character is already fixed. This view commended 
itself all the more to Luther because it had been espoused by the 
founder of his order, St. Augustine, who, following Paul, held that 
God has already chosen some vessels for honor and some for dishonor, 
regardless of their deserts. The lost are lost, do what they can; the saved 
are saved, do what they may. To those who think they are saved this 



is an unspeakable comfort, but to those who think they are damned 
it is a hideous torment. 
Luther exclaimed: 

Is it not against all natural reason that God out of his mere whim deserts 
men, hardens them, damns them, as if he delighted in sins and in such 
torments of the wretched for eternity, he who is said to be of such mercy 
and goodness? This appears iniquitous, cruel, and intolerable in God, by 
which very many have been offended in all ages. And who would not be? 
I was myself more than once driven to the very abyss of despair so that 
I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him! 

The word of blasphemy had been spoken. And blasphemy is the 
supreme sin because it is an offense against the most exalted of all be- 
ings, God the majestic. Luther reported to Staupitz, and his answer 
was, "Ich verstehe es nicht!"~"l don't understand it!" Was, then, 
Luther the only one in all the world who had been so plagued? Had 
Staupitz himself never experienced such trials? "No," said he, "but 
I think they are your meat and drink." Evidently he suspected Luther 
of thriving on his disturbances. The only word of reassurance he could 
give was a reminder that the blood of Christ was shed for the remis- 
sion of sins. But Luther was too obsessed with the picture of Christ 
the avenger to be consoled with the thought of Christ the redeemer. 

Staupitz then cast about for some effective cure for this tormented 
spirit. He recognized in him a man of moral earnestness, religious sen- 
sitivity, and unusual gifts. Why his difficulties should be so enormous 
and so persistent was baffling. Plainly argument and consolation did 
no good. Some other way must be found. One day under the pear tree 
in the garden of the Augustinian cloister Luther always treasured 
that pear tree the vicar informed Brother Martin that he should study 
for his doctor's degree, that he should undertake preaching and as- 
sume the chair of Bible at the university. Luther gasped, stammered 
out fifteen reasons why he could do nothing of the sort. The sum of it 
all was that so much work would kill him. "Quite all right," said 
Staupitz. "God has plenty of work for clever men to do in heaven." 

Luther might well gasp, for the proposal of Staupitz was audacious 



if not reckless. A young man on the verge of a nervous collapse over 
religious problems was to be commissioned as a teacher, preacher, and 
counselor to sick souls. Staupitz was practically saying, "Physician, 
cure thyself by curing others." He must have felt that Luther was 
fundamentally sound and that if he was entrusted with the cure of 
souls he would be disposed for their sakes to turn from threats to 
promises, and some of the grace which he would claim for them might 
fall also to himself. 

Staupitz knew likewise that Luther would be helped by the subject 
matter of his teaching. The chair designed for him was the one which 
Staupitz himself had occupied, the chair of Bible. One is tempted 
to surmise that he retired in order unobtrusively to drive this agoniz- 
ing brother to wrestle with the source book of his religion. One may 
wonder why Luther had not thought of this himself. The reason is 
not that the Bible was inaccessible, but that Luther was following a 
prescribed course and the Bible was not the staple of theological edu- 

Yet anyone who seeks to discover the secret of Christianity is in- 
evitably driven to the Bible, because Christianity is based on something 
which happened in the past, the incarnation of God in Christ at a 
definite point in history. The Bible records this event. 


Luther set himself to learn and expound the Scriptures. On August 
1, 1513, he commenced his lectures on the book of Psalms. In the fall 
of 1515 he was lecturing on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. The 
Epistle to the Galatians was treated throughout 1516-17. These 
studies proved to be for Luther the Damascus road. The third great 
religious crisis which resolved his turmoil was as the still small voice 
compared to the earthquake of the first upheaval in the thunderstorm 
at Stotternheim and the fire of the second tremor which consumed 
him at the saying of his first mass. No coup de -foudre, no heavenly ap- 
parition, no religious ceremony, precipitated the third crisis. The 
place was no lonely road in a blinding storm, nor even the holy altar, 
but simply the study in the tower of the Augustinian monastery. The 




solution to Luther's problems came in the midst of the performance 
of the daily task. 

His first lectures were on the book of Psalms. We must bear in 
mind his method of reading the Psalms and the Old Testament as a 
whole. For him, as for his time, it was a Christian book foreshadowing 
the life and death of the Redeemer. 

The reference to Christ was unmistakable when he came to the 
twenty-second psalm, the first verse of which was recited by Christ 
as he expired upon the cross. "My God, my God, why hast thou for- 
saken me?" What could be the meaning of this? Christ evidently felt 
himself to be forsaken, abandoned by God, deserted. Christ too had 
Anfechtungen. The utter desolation which Luther said he could not 
endure for more than a tenth of an hour and live had been experienced 
by Christ himself as he died. Rejected of men, he was rejected also of 
God. How much worse this must have been than the scourging, the 
thorns, the nails! In the garden he sweat blood as he did not upon the 
cross. Christ's descent into hell was nothing other than this sense of 
alienation from God. Christ had suffered what Luther suffered, or 
rather Luther was finding himself in what Christ had suffered, even 
as Albrecht Diirer painted himself as the Man of Sorrows. 

Why should Christ have known such desperations? Luther knew 
perfectly well why he himself had had them: he was weak in the 
presence of the Mighty; he was impure in the presence of the Holy; 
he had blasphemed the Divine Majesty. But Christ was not weak; 
Christ was not impure; Christ was not impious. Why then should he 
have been so overwhelmed with desolation? The only answer must 
be that Christ took to himself the iniquity of us all. He who was with- 
out sin for our sakes became sin and so identified himself with us as 
to participate in our alienation. He who was truly man so sensed his 
solidarity with humanity as to feel himself along with mankind es- 
tranged from the All Holy. What a new picture this is of Christ! 
Where, then, is the judge, sitting upon the rainbow to condemn sin- 
ners? He is still the judge. He must judge, as truth judges error and 
light darkness; but in judging he suffers with those whom he must 



condemn and feels himself with them subject to condemnation. The 
judge upon the rainbow has become the derelict upon the cross. 

A new view also of God is here. The All Terrible is the All Merci- 
ful too. Wrath and love fuse upon the cross. The hideousness of sin 
cannot be denied or forgotten; but God, who desires not that a sinner 
should die but that he should turn and live, has found the reconcilia- 
tion in the pangs of bitter death. It is not that the Son by his sacrifice 
has placated the irate Father; it is not primarily that the Master by his 
self-abandoning goodness has made up for our deficiency. It is that 
in some inexplicable way, in the utter desolation of the forsaken 
Christ, God was able to reconcile the world to himself. This does not 
mean that all the mystery is clear. God is still shrouded at times in 
thick darkness. There are almost two Gods, the inscrutable God whose 
ways are past finding out and the God made known to us in Christ. 
He is still a consuming fire, but he burns that he may purge and 
chasten and heal. He is not a God of idle whim, because the cross is 
not the last word. He who gave his Son unto death also raised him up 
and will raise us with him, if with him we die to sin that we may rise 
to newness of life. 

Who can understand this? Philosophy is unequal to it. Only faith 
can grasp so high a mystery. This is the foolishness of the cross which 
is hid from the wise and prudent. Reason must retire. She cannot 
understand that "God hides his power in weakness, his wisdom in 
folly, his goodness in severity, his justice in sins, his mercy in anger." 

How amazing that God in Christ should do all this; that the Most 
High, the Most Holy should be the All Loving too; that the ineffable 
Majesty should stoop to take upon himself our flesh, subject to hun- 
ger and cold, death and desperation. We see him lying in the feed- 
box of a donkey, laboring in a carpenter's shop, dying a derelict under 
the sins of the world. The gospel is not so much a miracle as a marvel, 
and every line is suffused with wonder. 

What God first worked in Christ, that he must work also in us. 
If he who had done no wrong was forsaken on the cross, we who are 
truly alienated from God must suffer a deep hurt. We are not for that 
reason to upbraid, since the hurt is for our healing. 



Repentance which is occupied with thoughts of peace is hypocrisy. 
There must be a great earnestness about it and a deep hurt if the old 
man is to be put off. When lightning strikes a tree or a man, it does two 
things at onceit rends the tree and swiftly slays the man. But it also 
turns the face of the dead man and the broken branches of the tree itself 
toward heaven. . . . We seek to be saved, and God in order that he may 
save rather damns. . . . They are damned who flee damnation, for Christ 
was of all the saints the most damned and forsaken. 

The contemplation of the cross had convinced Luther that God is 
neither malicious nor capricious. If, like the Samaritan, God must 
first pour into our wounds the wine that smarts, it is that he may 
thereafter use the oil that soothes. But there still remains the problem 
of the justice of God. Wrath can melt into mercy, and God will be all 
the more the Christian God; but if justice be dissolved in leniency, how 
can he be the just God whom Scripture describes? The study of the 
apostle Paul proved at this point of inestimable value to Luther and 
at the same time confronted him with the final stumbling block be- 
cause Paul unequivocally speaks of the justice of God. At the very 
expression Luther trembled. Yet he persisted in grappling with Paul, 
who plainly had agonized over precisely his problem and had found 
a solution. Light broke at last through the examination of exact shades 
of meaning in the Greek language. One understands why Luther could 
never join those who discarded the humanist tools of scholarship. In 
the Greek of the Pauline epistles the word "justice" has a double 
sense, rendered in English by "justice" and "justification." The former 
is a strict enforcement of the law, as when a judge pronounces the 
appropriate sentence. Justification is a process of the sort which some- 
times takes place if the judge suspends the sentence, places the prisoner 
on parole, expresses confidence and personal interest in him, and there- 
by instills such resolve that the man is reclaimed and justice itself ulti- 
mately better conserved than by the exaction of a pound of flesh. 
Similarly the moral improvement issuing from the Christian experience 
of regeneration, even though it falls far short of perfection, yet can 
be regarded as a vindication of the justice of God. 

But from here on any human analogy breaks down. God does not 



condition his forgiveness upon the expectation of future fulfillment. 
And man is not put right with God by any achievement, whether 
present or foreseen. On man's side the one requisite is faith, which 
means belief that God was in Christ seeking to save; trust that God 
will keep his promises; and commitment to his will and way. Faith is 
not an achievement. It is a gift. Yet it comes only through the hearing 
and study of the Word. In this respect Luther's own experience was 
made normative. For the whole process of being made new Luther 
took over from Paul the terminology of "justification by faith." 
These are Luther's own words: 

I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and 
nothing stood in the way but that one expression, "the justice of God," 
because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly 
in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable 
monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no 
confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love 
a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I 
clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. 

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the 
justice of God and the statement that "the just shall live by his faith." 
Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which 
through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon 
I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into 
paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas 
before the "justice of God" had filled me with hate, now it became to 
me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to 
me a gate to heaven. . . . 

If you have a true faith that Christ is your Saviour, then at once you 
have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God's heart 
and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to 
behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly 
heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God 
as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a 
dark cloud had been drawn across his face. 

Luther had come into a new view of Christ and a new view of God. 
He had come to love the suff ering Redeemer and the God unveiled 
on Calvary. But were they after all powerful enough to deliver him 



from all the hosts of hell? The cross had resolved the conflict between 
the wrath and the mercy of God, and Paul had reconciled for him 
the inconsistency of the justice and the forgiveness of God, but what 
of the conflict between God and the Devil? Is God lord of all, or is he 
himself impeded by demonic hordes? Such questions a few years ago 
would have seemed to modern man but relics of medievalism, and 
fear of demons was dispelled simply by denying their existence. To- 
day so much of the sinister has engulfed us that we are prone to won- 
der whether perhaps there may not be malignant forces in the heavenly 
places. All those who have known the torments of mental disorder 
well understand the imagery of satanic hands clutching to pull them 
to their doom. Luther's answer was not scientific but religious. He 
did not dissipate the demons by turning on an electric light, because 
for him they had long ago been routed when the veil of the temple 
was rent and the earth quaked and darkness descended upon the face 
of the land. Christ in his utter anguish had fused the wrath and the 
mercy of God, and put to flight all the legions of Satan. 

In Luther's hymns one hears the tramp of marshaled hordes, the 
shouts of battle, and the triumph song. 

In devil's dungeon chained I lay 
The pangs of death swept o'er me. 

My sin devoured me night and day 
In which my mother bore me. 

My anguish ever grew more rife, 

I took no pleasure in my life 
And sin had made me crazy. 

Then was the Father troubled sore 

To see me ever languish. 
The Everlasting Pity swore 

To save me from my anguish. 
He turned to me his father heart 
And chose himself a bitter part, 

His Dearest did it cost him. 



Thus spoke the Son, * c FIold thou to me, 
From noxv on thoxi xvilt make It. 

I gave my very life for thee 
Ajnd for rfiee I xvill st^lce it. 

For I am tHine and thou art mine, 

And xvHere I ana our lives entrvvine, 
The Old Fiend cannot shake it." 



UTHER'S new insights contained already the 
marrow of his mature theology. The salient 
ideas were present in the lectures on Psalms 
and Romans from 1513 to 1516. What came 
after was but commentary and sharpening to 
obviate misconstruction. The center about 
which all the petals clustered was the affirma- 
tion of the forgiveness of sins through the ut- 
terly unmerited grace of God made possible by the cross of Christ, 
which reconciled wrath and mercy, routed the hosts of hell, triumphed 
over sin and death, and by the resurrection manifested that power 
which enables man to die to sin and rise to newness of life. This was 
of course the theology of Paul, heightened, intensified, and clarified. 
Beyond these cardinal tenets Luther was never to go. 

His development lay rather on the positive side in the drawing of 
practical inferences for his theory of the sacraments and the Church, 
and on the negative side by way of discovering discrepancies from 
contemporary Catholicism. At the start Luther envisaged no reform 
other than that of theological education with the stress on the Bible 
rather than on the decretals and the scholastics. Not that he was in- 
different to the evils of the Church! In his notes for the lectures on 
Romans he lashed out repeatedly against the luxury, avarice, igno- 
rance, and greed of the clergy and upbraided explicitly the chicanery 
of that warrior-pope Julius II. Yet whether these strictures were 
ever actually delivered is doubtful; for no record of them appears in 
the student notes on the lectures. Luther was, in fact, less impelled 



to voice a protest against immoral abuses in the Church than were 
some of his contemporaries. 

For one reason he was too busy. In October, 1516, he wrote to a 

I could use two secretaries. I do almost nothing during the day but 
write letters. I am a conventual preacher, reader at meals, parochial 
preacher, director of studies, overseer of eleven monasteries, superintend- 
ent of the fish pond at Litzkau, referee of the squabble at Torgau, lec- 
turer on Paul, collector of material for a commentary on the Psalms, and 
then, as I said, I am overwhelmed with letters. I rarely have full time 
for the canonical hours and for saying mass, not to mention my own 
temptations with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. You see how lazy 
I am. 

But out of just such labors arose his activities as a reformer. 

As a parish priest in a village church he was responsible for the 
spiritual welfare of his flock. They were procuring indulgences as 
he had once done himself. Rome was not the only place in which such 
favors were available, for the popes delegated to many churches in 
Christendom the privilege of dispensing indulgences, and the Castle 
Church at Wittenberg was the recipient of a very unusual concession 
granting full remission of all sins. The day selected for the proclama- 
tion was the first of November, the day of All Saints, whose merits 
provided the ground of the indulgences and whose relics were then 
on display. Frederick the Wise, the elector of Saxony, Luther's prince, 
was a man of simple and sincere piety who had devoted a lifetime to 
making Wittenberg the Rome of Germany as a depository of sacred 
relics. He had made a journey to all parts of Europe, and diplomatic 
negotiations were facilitated by an exchange of relics. The king of 
Denmark, for example, sent him fragments of King Canute and St. 

The collection had as its nucleus a genuine thorn from the crown 
of Christ, certified to have pierced the Saviour's brow. Frederick so 
built up the collection from this inherited treasure that the catalogue 
illustrated by Lucas Cranach in 1509 listed 5,005 particles, to which 




were attached indulgences calculated to reduce purgatory by 1,443 
years. The collection included one tooth of St. Jerome, of St. Chrysos- 
tom four pieces, of St. Bernard six, and of St. Augustine four; of Our 
Lady four hairs, three pieces of her cloak, four from her girdle, and 
seven from the veil sprinkled with the blood of Christ. The relics of 
Christ included one piece from his swaddling clothes, thirteen from 
his crib, one wisp of straw, one piece of the gold brought by the 
Wise Men and three of the myrrh, one strand of Jesus' beard, one of 
the nails driven into his hands, one piece of bread eaten at the Last 
Supper, one piece of the stone on which Jesus stood to ascend into 
heaven, and one twig of Moses' burning bush. By 1520 the collection 
had mounted to 19,013 holy bones. Those who viewed these relics on 
the designated day and made the stipulated contributions might re- 
ceive from the pope indulgences for the reduction of purgatory, 
either for themselves or others, to the extent of 1,902,202 years and 
270 days. These were the treasures made available on the day of All 

Three times during his sermons of the year 1516 Luther spoke 
critically of these indulgences. The third of these occasions was 
Halloween, the eve of All Saints. Luther spoke moderately and with- 
out certainty on all points. But on some he was perfectly assured. No 
one, he declared, can know whether the remission of sins is complete, 
because complete remission is granted only to those who exhibit 
worthy contrition and confession, and no one can know whether 
contrition and confession are perfectly worthy. To assert that the 
pope can deliver souls from purgatory is audacious. If he can do so, 
then he is cruel not to release them all. But if he possesses this ability, 
he is in a position to do more for the dead than for the living. The 
purchasing of indulgences in any case is highly dangerous and likely 
to induce complacency. Indulgences can remit only those private 
satisfactions imposed by the Church, and may easily militate against 
interior penance, which consists in true contrition, true confession, 
and true satisfaction in spirit. 

Luther records that the elector took this sermon amiss. Well he 
might, because indulgences served not merely to dispense the merits 

of the saints but also to raise revenues. They were the bingo of the 
sixteenth century. The practice grew out of the crusades. At first 
indulgences were conferred on those who sacrificed or risked their 
lives in fighting against the infidel, and then were extended to those 
who, unable to go to the Holy Land, made contributions to the en- 
terprise. The device proved so lucrative that it was speedily extended 
to cover the construction of churches, monasteries, and hospitals. 
The gothic cathedrals were financed in this way. Frederick the Wise 
was using an indulgence to reconstruct a bridge across the Elbe. In- 
dulgences, to be sure, had not degenerated into sheer mercenariness. 
Conscientious preachers sought to evoke a sense of sin, and presum- 
ably only those genuinely concerned made the purchases. Neverthe- 
less, the Church today readily concedes that the indulgence traffic 
was a scandal, so much so that a contemporary preacher phrased the 
requisites as three: contrition, confession, and contribution. 

A cartoon by Holbein makes the point that the handing over of 
the indulgence letter was so timed as not to anticipate the dropping of 
the money into the coffer. We see in this cartoon a chamber with 


the pope enthroned. He is probably Leo X because the arms of the 
Medici appear frequently about the walls. The pope is handing a letter 
of indulgence to a kneeling Dominican. In the choir stalls on either 
side are seated a number of church dignitaries. On the right one of 
them lays his hand upon the head of a kneeling youth and with a stick 
points to a large ironbound chest for the contributions, into which a 
woman is dropping her mite. At the table on the left various Domini- 
cans are preparing and dispensing indulgences. One of them repulses 
a beggar who has nothing to give in exchange, while another is care- 
fully checking the money and withholding the indulgences until the 
full amount has been received. In contrast he shows on the left the 
true repentance of David, Manasseh, and a notorious sinner, who ad- 
dress themselves only to God. 

The indulgences dispensed at Wittenberg served to support the 
Castle Church and the university. Luther's attack, in other words, 
struck at the revenue of his own institution. This first blow was cer- 
tainly not the rebellion of an exploited German against the mulcting 
of his country by the greedy Italian papacy. However much in after 



years Luther's followers may have been motivated by such considera- 
tions, his first onslaught was not so prompted. He was a priest re- 
sponsible for the eternal welfare of his parishioners. He must warn 
them against spiritual pitfalls, no matter what might happen to the 
Castle Church and the university. 


In 1517, the year following, his attention was called to another 
instance of the indulgence traffic fraught with far-reaching ramifica- 
tions. The affair rose out of the pretensions of the house of Hohen- 
zollern to control the ecclesiastical and civil life of Germany. An 
accumulation of ecclesiastical benefices in one family was an excellent 
expedient, because every bishop controlled vast revenues, and some 
bishops were princes besides, Albert of Brandenburg, of the house of 
Hohenzollern, when not old enough to be a bishop at all, held already 
the sees of Halberstadt and Magdeburg, and aspired to the archbishop- 
ric of Mainz, which would make him the primate of Germany. 

He knew that he would have to pay well for his office. The instal- 
lation fee was ten thousand ducats, and the parish could not afford it, 
being already depleted through the deaths of three archbishops in a 
decade. One of them apologized for dying after an incumbency of 
only four years, thereby so soon involving his flock in the fee for his 
successor. The diocese offered the post to Albert if he would dis- 
charge the fee himself. He realized that he would have to pay the pope 
in addition for the irregularity of holding three sees at once and prob- 
ably still more to counteract the pressures of the rival house of Haps- 
burg on the papacy. 

Yet Albert was confident that money would speak, because the 
pope needed it so badly. The pontiff at the moment was Leo X, of 
the house of Medici, as elegant and as indolent as a Persian cat. His 
chief pre-eminence lay in his ability to squander the resources of the 
Holy See on carnivals, war, gambling, and the chase. The duties of 
his holy office were seldom suffered to interfere with sport. He wore 
long hunting boots which impeded the kissing of his toe. The re- 
sources of three papacies were dissipated by his profligacy: the goods 



of his predecessors, himself, and his successor. The Catholic historian 
Ludwig von Pastor declared that the ascent of this man in an hour of 
crisis to the chair of St. Peter, " a man who scarcely so much as under- 
stood the obligations of his 
high office, was one of the 
most severe trials to which 
God ever subjected his 

Leo at the moment was par- 
ticularly in need of funds to 
complete a project com- 
menced by his predecessor, the 
building of the new St. Peter's. 
The old wooden basilica, con- 
structed in the age of Con- 
stantine, had been condemned, 
and the titanic Pope Julius II 
had overawed the consistory 
into approving the grandiose 
scheme of throwing a dome as 
large as the Pantheon over the 
remains of the apostles Peter 
and Paul. The piers were laid; Julius died; the work lagged; weeds 
sprouted from the pillars; Leo took over; he needed money. 

The negotiations of Albert with the pope were conducted through 
the mediation of the German banking house of Fugger, which had a 
monopoly on papal finances in Germany. When the Church needed 
funds in advance of her revenues, she borrowed at usurious rates from 
the sixteenth-century Rothschilds or Morgans. Indulgences were issued 
in order to repay the debts, and the Fuggers supervised the collection. 

Knowing the role they would ultimately play, Albert turned to 
them for the initial negotiations. He was informed that the pope de- 
manded twelve thousand ducats for the twelve apostles. Albert offered 
seven thousand for the seven deadly sins. They compromised on ten 
thousand, presumably not for the Ten Commandments. Albert had to 




pay the money down before he could secure his appointment, and 
he borrowed the sum from the Fuggers. 

Then the pope, to enable Albert to reimburse himself, granted 
the privilege of dispensing an indulgence in his territories for the 
period of eight years. One half of the return, in addition to the ten 
thousand ducats already paid, should go to the pope for the building 
of the new St. Peter's; the other half should go to reimburse the 

These indulgences were not actually offered in Luther's parish be- 
cause the Church could not introduce an indulgence without the con- 
sent of the civil authorities, and Frederick the Wise would not grant 
permission in his lands because he did not wish the indulgence of St. 
Peter to encroach upon the indulgences of All Saints at Wittenberg. 
Consequently the vendors did not enter electoral Saxony, but th^y 
came close enough so that Luther's parishioners could go over the 
border and return with the most amazing concessions. 

In briefing the vendors Albert reached the pinnacle of pretensions 
as to the spiritual benefits to be conferred by indulgences. He made 
no reference whatever to the repayment of his debt to the Fuggers. 
The instructions declared that a plenary indulgence had been issued 
by His Holiness Pope Leo X to defray the expenses of remedying 
the sad state of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul and the innumer- 
able martyrs and saints whose bones lay moldering, subject to con- 
stant desecration from rain and hail. Subscribers would enjoy a 
plenary and perfect remission of all sins. They would be restored 
to the state of innocence which they enjoyed in baptism and would 
be relieved of all the pains of purgatory, including those incurred 
by an offense to the Divine Majesty. Those securing indulgences on 
behalf of the dead already in purgatory need not themselves be con- 
trite and confess their sins. 

Then let the cross of Christ, continued the instructions, and the 
arms of the pope be planted at preaching stations that all might con- 
tribute according to their capacity. Kings and queens, archbishops 
and bishops, and other great princes were expected to give twenty- 
five gold florins. Abbots, cathedral prelates, counts, barons, and 


other great nobles and their wives were put down for twenty. Other 
prelates and lower nobility should give six. The rate for burghers and 
merchants was three. For those more moderately circumstanced, one. 

And since we are concerned for the salvation of souls quite as much 
as for the construction of this building, none shall be turned empty away. 


So much jnoney is going into the coffer of the vendor that neiv coins have 
to be minted on the spot. 

The very poor may contribute by prayers and fastings, for the Kingdom 
of Heaven belongs not only to the rich but also to the poor. 

The proclamation of this indulgence was entrusted to the Dominican 
Tetzel, an experienced vendor. As he approached a town, he was met 
by the dignitaries, who then entered with him in solemn procession. 
A cross bearing the papal arms preceded him, and the pope's bull of 
indulgence was borne aloft on a gold-embroidered velvet cushion. The 
cross was solemnly planted in the market place, and the sermon began. 




Listen now, God and St. Peter 
call you. Consider the salvation 
of your souls and those of your 
loved ones departed. You priest, 
you noble, you merchant, you 
virgin, you matron, you youth, 
you old man, enter now into 
your church, which is the 
Church of St. Peter. Visit the 
most holy cross erected before 
you and ever imploring you. 
Have you considered that you 
are lashed in a furious tempest 
amid the temptations and dan- 
gers of the world, and that you 
do not know whether you can 
reach the haven, not of your 
mortal body, but of your im- 
mortal soul? Consider that all 
who are contrite and have con- 
fessed and made contribution will receive complete remission of all their 
sins. Listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseech- 
ing you and saying, "Pity us, pity us. We are in dire torment from which 
you can redeem us for a pittance." Do you not wish to? Open your ears. 
Hear the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter, "We bore 
you, nourished you, brought you up, left you our fortunes, and you are 
so cruel and hard that now you are not willing for so little to set us free. 
Will you let us lie here in flames? will you delay our promised glory?" 
Remember that you are able to release them, for 

As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, 
The soul from purgatory springs. 

Will you not then for a quarter of a florin receive these letters of in- 
dulgence through which you are able to lead a divine and immortal soul 
into the fatherland of paradise? 

Such harangues were not being delivered in Wittenberg because 
of the prohibition of Frederick the Wise, but Tetzel was just over 
the border, not too far away for Luther's parishioners to make the 
journey and return with the pardons. They even reported Tetzel to 



have said that papal indulgences could absolve a man who had violated 
the Mother of God, and that the cross emblazoned with the papal 
arms set up by the indulgence sellers was equal to the cross of Christ. 
A cartoon published somewhat later by one of Luther's followers 
showed the cross in the center empty of all save the nail holes and the 
crown of thorns. More prominent beside it stood the papal arms with 
the balls of the Medici, while in the foreground the vendor hawked 
his wares. 


This was too much. Again on the eve of All Saints, when Frederick 
the Wise would offer his indulgences, Luther spoke, this time in writ- 
ing, by posting in accord with current practice on the door of the 
Castle Church a printed placard in the Latin language consisting of 
ninety-five theses for debate. Presumably at the time Luther did not 
know all the sordid details of Albert's transaction. He must have 
known that Albert would get 
half the returns, but he directed 
his attack solely against Tetzel's 
reputed sermon and Albert's 
printed instructions, which 
marked the apex of unbridled 
pretensions as to the efficacy of 
indulgences. Sixtus IV in 1476 
had promised immediate release 
to souls in purgatory. Tetzel's 
jingle thus rested on papal au- 
thority. And Leo X in 1513 had 
promised crusaders plenary re- 
mission of all sins and reconcilia- 
tion with the Most High. Albert 
assembled the previous preten- 
sions and in addition dispensed 
explicitly with contrition on the 




part of those who purchased on behalf of the dead in purgatory. 

Luther's Theses differed from the ordinary propositions for debate 
because they were forged in anger. The ninety-five affirmations are 
crisp, bold, unqualified. In the ensuing discussion he explained his 
meaning more fully. The following summary draws alike on the 
Theses and the subsequent explications. There were three main points: 
an objection to the avowed object of the expenditure, a denial of the 
powers of the pope over purgatory, and a consideration of the welfare 
of the sinner. 

The attack focused first on the ostensible intent to spend the money 
in order to shelter the bones of St. Peter beneath a universal shrine of 
Christendom. Luther retorted: 

The revenues of all Christendom are being sucked into this insatiable 
basilica. The Germans laugh at calling this the common treasure of Chris- 
tendom. Before long all the churches, palaces, walls, and bridges of Rome 
will be built out of our money. First of all we should rear living temples, 
next local churches, and only last of all St. Peter's, which is not necessary 
for us. We Germans cannot attend St. Peter's. Better that it should never 
be built than that our parochial churches should be despoiled. The pope 
would do better to appoint one good pastor to a church than to confer 
indulgences upon them all. Why doesn't the pope build the ( basilica of 
St. Peter out of his own money? He is richer than Croesus. He would 
do better to sell St. Peter's and give the money to the poor folk who are 
being fleeced by the hawkers of indulgences. If the pope knew the 
exactions of these vendors, he would rather that St. Peter's should lie in 
ashes than that it should be built out of the blood and hide of his sheep. 

This polemic would evoke a deep Ja ivohl among the Germans, 
who for some time had been suffering from a sense of grievance against 
the venality of the Italian curia and often quite overlooked the venal- 
ity of the German confederates. Luther lent himself to this distortion 
by accepting Albert's picture of the money going all to Rome rather 
than to the coffers of the Fuggers. Yet in a sense Albert's picture was 
right. He was only being reimbursed for money which had already 
gone to Rome. In any case, however, the financial aspect was the least 



in Luther's eyes. He was ready to undercut the entire practice even 
though not a gulden left Wittenberg. 

His second point denied the power of the pope over purgatory for 
the remission of either sin or penalty. The absolution of sin is given 
to the contrite in the sacrament of penance. 

Papal indulgences do not remove guilt. Beware of those who say that 
indulgences effect reconciliation with God. The power of the keys can- 
not make attrition into contrition. He who is contrite has plenary remis- 
sion of guilt and penalty without indulgences. The pope can remove 
only those penalties which he himself has imposed on earth, for Christ 
did not say, "Whatsoever I have bound in heaven you may loose on 

The penalties of purgatory the pope cannot reduce because 
these have been imposed by God, and the pope does not have at his 
disposal a treasury of credits 
available for transfer. 

The saints have no extra 
credits. Every saint is bound to 
love God to the utmost. There 
is no such thing as supereroga- 
tion. If there were any super- 
fluous credits, they could not be 
stored up for subsequent use. 
The Holy Spirit would have 
used them fully long ago. Christ 
indeed had merits, but until I 
am better instructed I deny that 
they are indulgences. His merits 
are freely available without the 
keys of the pope. 

Therefore I claim that the 
pope has no jurisdiction over 
purgatory. I am willing to re- 
verse this judgment if the 
Church so pronounces. If the 
pope does have the power to 




release anyone from purgatory, why in the name of love does he not 
abolish purgatory by letting everyone out? If for the sake of miserable 
money he released uncounted souls, why should he not for the sake 
of most holy love empty the place? To say that souls are liberated from 
purgatory is audacious. To say they are released as soon as the coin in 
the coffer rings is to incite avarice. The pope would do better to give 
away everything without charge. The only power which the pope has 
over purgatory is that of making intercession on behalf of souls, and 
this power is exercised by any priest or curate in his parish. 

Luther's attack thus far could in no sense be regarded as heretical 
or original. Even though Albert's instructions rested on papal bulls, 
there had as yet been no definitive pronouncement, and many theo- 
logians would have endorsed Luther's claims. 

But he had a more devastating word: 

Indulgences are positively harmful to the recipient because they impede 
salvation by diverting charity and inducing a false sense of security. 
Christians should be taught that he who gives to the poor is better than 
he who receives a pardon. He who spends his money for indulgences 
instead of relieving want receives not the indulgence of the pope but 
the indignation of God. We are told that money should be given by 
preference to the poor only in the case of extreme necessity. I suppose 
we are not to clothe the naked and visit the sick. What is extreme 
necessity? Why, I ask, does natural humanity have such goodness that it 
gives itself freely and does not calculate necessity but is rather solicitous 
that there should not be any necessity? And will the charity of God, 
which is incomparably kinder, do none of these things? Did Christ say, 
"Let him that has a cloak sell it and buy an indulgence"? Love covers a 
multitude of sins and is better than all the pardons of Jerusalem and 

Indulgences are most pernicious because they induce complacency and 
thereby imperil salvation. Those persons are damned who think that 
letters of indulgence make them certain of salvation. God works by 
contraries so that a man feels himself to be lost in the very moment 
when he is on the point of being saved. When God is about to justify a 
man, he damns him. Whom he would make alive he must first kill. God's 
favor is so communicated in the form of wrath that it seems farthest when 
it is at hand. Man must first cry out that there is no health in him. He 
must be consumed with horror. This is the pain of purgatory. I do not 



know where it is located, but I do know that it can be experienced in this 
life. I know a man who has gone through such pains that had they lasted 
for one tenth of an hour he would have been reduced to ashes. In this dis- 
turbance salvation begins. When a man believes himself to be utterly 
lost, light breaks. Peace comes in the word of Christ through faith. He 
who does not have this is lost even though he be absolved a million times 
by the pope, and he who does have it may not wish to be released from 
purgatory, for true contrition seeks penalty. Christians should be en- 
couraged to bear the cross. He who is baptized into Christ must be as a 
sheep for the slaughter. The merits of Christ are vastly more potent when 
they bring crosses than when they bring remissions. 

Luther's Ninety-Five Theses ranged all the way from the com- 
plaints of aggrieved Germans to the cries of a wrestler in the night 
watches. One portion demanded financial relief, the other called for 
the crucifixion of the self. The masses could grasp the first. Only a 
few elect spirits would ever comprehend the full import of the second, 
and yet in the second lay all the power to create a popular revolution. 
Complaints of financial extortion had been voiced for over a century 
without visible effect. Men were stirred to deeds only by one who 
regarded indulgences not merely as venal but as blasphemy against 
the holiness and mercy of God. 

Luther took no steps to spread his theses among the people. He was 
merely inviting scholars to dispute and dignitaries to define, but 
others surreptitiously translated the theses into German and gave them 
to the press. In short order they became the talk of Germany. What 
Karl Barth said of his own unexpected emergence as a reformer could 
be said equally of Luther, that he was like a man climbing in the dark- 
ness a winding staircase in the steeple of an ancient cathedral. In the 
blackness he reached out to steady himself, and his hand laid hold of 
a rope. He was startled to hear the clanging of a bell. 



ENERAL dissemination was not in Luther's 
mind when he posted the theses. He meant 
them for those concerned. A copy was sent 
to Albert of Mainz along with the following 

Father in Christ and Most Illustrious Prince, 
forgive me that I, the scum of the earth, should 
dare to approach Your Sublimity. The Lord Jesus is my witness that I 
am well aware of my insignificance and my unworthiness. I make so bold 
because of the office of fidelity which I owe to Your Paternity. May Your 
Highness look upon this speck of dust and hear my plea for clemency 
from you and from the pope. 

Luther then reports what he had heard about Tetzel's preaching that 
through indulgences men are promised remission, not only of penalty 
but also of guilt. 

God on high, is this the way the souls entrusted to your care are pre- 
pared for death? It is high time that you looked into this matter. I can 
be silent no longer. In fear and trembling we must work out our salva- 
tion. Indulgences can offer no security but only the remission of external 
canonical penalties. Works of piety and charity are infinitely better than 
indulgences. Christ did not command the preaching of indulgences but 
of the gospel, and what a horror it is, what a peril to a bishop, if he 
never gives the gospel to his people except along with the racket of 
indulgences. In the instructions of Your Paternity to the indulgence 
sellers, issued without your knowledge and consent [Luther offers him 



a way out], indulgences are called the inestimable gift of God for the 
reconciliation of man to God and the emptying of purgatory. Contrition 
is declared to be unnecessary. What shall I do, Illustrious Prince, if not 
to beseech Your Paternity through Jesus Christ our Lord to suppress 
utterly these instructions lest someone arise to confute this book and to 
bring Your Illustrious Sublimity into obloquy, which I dread but fear 
if something is not done speedily? May Your Paternity accept my faith- 
ful admonition. I, too, am one of your sheep. May the Lord Jesus guard 
you forever. Amen. 

WITTENBERG, 1517, on the eve of All Saints 

If you will look over my theses, you will see how dubious is the doc- 
trine of indulgences, which is so confidently proclaimed. 

MARTIN LUTHER, Augustinian Doctor of Theology 

Albert forwarded the theses to Rome. Pope Leo is credited with 
two comments. In all likelihood neither is authentic, yet each is re- 
vealing. The first was this: "Luther is a drunken German. He will feel 
different when he is sober." And the second: "Friar Martin is a bril- 
liant chap. The whole row is due to the envy of the monks." 

Both comments, wherever they originated, contain a measure of 
truth. If Luther was not a drunken German who would feel different 
when sober, he was an irate German who might be amenable if mol- 
lified. If at once the pope had issued the bull of a year later, clearly de- 
fining the doctrine of indulgences and correcting the most glaring 
abuses, Luther might have subsided. On many points he was not yet 
fully persuaded in his own mind, and he was prompted by no itch 
for controversy. Repeatedly he was ready to withdraw if his oppo- 
nents would abandon the fray. During the four years while his case was 
pending his letters reveal surprisingly little preoccupation with the 
public dispute. He was engrossed in his duties as a professor and a 
parish priest, and much more concerned to find a suitable incumbent 
for the chair of Hebrew at the University of Wittenberg than to knock 
a layer from the papal tiara. Prompt and straightforward action might 
have allayed the outburst. 

But the pope preferred to extinguish the friar with a clandestine 
snuffer and appointed a new general of the Augustinians that he might 



"quench a monk of his order, Martin Luther by name, and thus smother 
the fire before it should become a conflagration." The first opportunity 
came the next May at the regular triennial gathering of the chapter, 
meeting in that year at Heidelberg. Luther was scheduled to report on 
the completion of his term as vicar and was likewise to defend the 
theology of the father of the order, St. Augustine, concerning human 
depravity. The question of indulgences was not on the docket, but 
the Augustinian theology had provided the ground for Luther's at- 

He had reason to fear the occasion. Warnings of danger came from 
many sources. His enemies were boasting, some that he would be 
burned within a month, some within two weeks. He was warned of 
the possibility of assassination on the road to Heidelberg. "Neverthe- 
less," wrote Luther, "I will obey. I am going on foot. Our Prince 
[Frederick the Wise] quite unsolicited has undertaken to see that 
under no circumstances I shall be taken to Rome." Yet as a precaution 
Luther traveled incognito. After four days of tramping he wrote 
back, "I am properly contrite for going on foot. Since my contrition 
is perfect, full penance has akeady been done, and no indulgence 
is needed." 

To his amazement he was received at Heidelberg as a guest of honor. 
The Count Palatine invited him, along with Staupitz and others, to 
dinner and personally conducted them on a tour to see the ornaments 
of the chapel and the armor. Before the chapter Luther defended the 
Augustinian view that even outwardly upright acts may be mortal sins 
in the eyes of God. 

"If the peasants heard you say that, they would stone you," was the 
frank comment of one hearer, but the company roared. Acrimonious 
letters against Luther were presented before the chapter, but there 
were no repercussions. The older men did no more than shake their 
heads, and the younger were enthusiastic. "I have great hope," Luther 
said, "that as Christ, when rejected by the Jews, went over to the Gen- 
tiles, so this true theology, rejected by opinionated old men, will pass 
over to the younger generation." Among those young men were 
several later to be prominent as leaders in the Lutheran movement. 



There were John Brenz, the reformer of Wuerttemberg, and Martin 
Bucer, the leader at Strassburg. He was a Dominican who was permit- 
ted to attend the public session. "Luther," he reported, "has a marvelous 
graciousness in response and unconquerable patience in listening. In 
argument he shows the acumen of the apostle Paul. That which Eras- 
mus insinuates he speaks openly and freely." 

Far from being shunned by the brothers Luther was invited to ride 
home with the Niirnberg delegation until their ways diverged. Then 
he was transferred to the wagon of the Erf urters, where he found him- 
self beside his old teacher, Dr. Usingen. "I talked with him," said 
Luther, "and tried to persuade him, but I do not know with what suc- 
cess. I left him pensive and dazed." On the whole Luther felt that he 
was returning from a triumph. He summed it all up with the comment, 
"I went on foot. I came back in a wagon." 


The Augustinians were conceivably the more loath to suppress 
their obstreperous brother because their rivals, the Dominicans, were 
pressing him hard. This is the truth of the second comment attributed 
to Pope Leo. The Dominicans rallied to the aid of Tetzel, who was 
granted a doctor's degree that he might be in a position to publish. At 
his promotion he roundly defended the jingle, 

As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, 
The soul from purgatory springs. 

His theses were printed. The students at Wittenberg by theft or pur- 
chase collected eight hundred copies and, unbeknown to the elector, 
the university, or to Luther, committed them to a bonfire. Luther was 
highly embarrassed by their impetuosity. To Tetzel he did not deign 
a reply. 

But he did feel constrained to declare himself more fully to the 
general public. The Nmety-Five Theses had been given by the printer 
to all Germany, though intended only for professional theologians. 
The many bald assertions called for explanation and clarification, but 
Luther could never confine himself to a mere reproduction or explica- 



tion of what he had said previously. The sermons written out by re- 
quest on Monday do not correspond to the notes taken by hearers on 
Sunday. Ideas were so churning within him that new butter always 
came out of the vat. The Resolutions Concerning the Ninety -Five 
Theses contain some new points. Luther had made the discovery that 
the biblical text from the Latin Vulgate, used to support the sacrament 
of penance, was a mistranslation. The Latin for Matt. 4: 17 read pent- 
tentiam agite, "do penance," but from the Greek New Testament of 
Erasmus, Luther had learned that the original meant simply "be peni- 
tent." The literal sense was "change your mind." "Fortified with this 
passage," wrote Luther to Staupitz in the dedication of the Resolutions, 
"I venture to say they are wrong who make more of the act in Latin 
than of the change of heart in Greek." This was what Luther himself 
called a "glowing" discovery. In this crucial instance a sacrament of 
the Church did not rest on the institution of Scripture. 

In a very casual way Luther threw off another remark for which 
he was to be severely pressed. "Suppose," said he, "that the Roman 
Church were as once it was before the days of Gregory I, when it was 
not above the other churches, at least not above the Greek." This was 
to say that the primacy of the Roman Church was a historical de- 
velopment due rather to the exigencies of history than to divine or- 
dination reaching back to the very founding of the Church. 

Declarations of such sweeping import soon raised the controversy 
far above a mere strife of the orders, and every fresh stage served to 
elicit the radicalism implicit in Luther's presuppositions. He was soon 
prompted to deny not only the pope's power to release from, but also 
his ability to consign to, purgatory. Hearing that he was under the ban, 
Luther had the temerity to preach on the ban, declaring, according to 
the reports of hostile hearers, that excommunication and reconciliation 
affect only the external fellowship of the Church on earth and not 
the grace of God. Bishops are impious who excommunicate over money 
matters, and they should be disobeyed. These alleged statements were 
printed by opponents and shown at the imperial diet to the papal 
legates, who were rumored to have sent them to Rome. Luther was 
informed that they had done him inestimable damage. To put himself 



in the clear he wrote out for the press what he could remember of 
the sermon, but his attempt to conciliate was hardly felicitous. If 
Mother Church errs in her censures, said he, we should still honor her 
as Christ honored Caiaphas, Annas, and Pilate. Excommunications ap- 
ply only to the outward communion of the sacraments, to burial, and 
to public prayers. The ban does not commit a man to the Devil unless 
he is already consigned. Only God can sever spiritual communion. No 
creature can separate us from the love of Christ. We need not fear to 
die in a state of excommunication. If the sentence is just, the con- 
demned man, if contrite, can still be saved; and if it is unjust, he is 

The printed sermon was not off the press until the end of August. 
In the meantime the more provocative version of his critics took effect. 
The pope would no longer dally. From the un-co-operative Augustin- 
ians he turned to the Dominicans. Sylvester Prierias, of the Order of 
St. Dominic, Master of the Sacred Palace at Rome, was commissioned 
to draft a reply to Luther. He produced it in short order. The open- 
ing paragraph shifted the focus from indulgences to the ban and the 
prerogatives of the pope. Prierias declared that the universal Church 
is virtually the Roman Church. The Roman Church consists represen- 
tatively in the cardinals, but virtually in the pope. Just as the universal 
Church cannot err on faith and morals, nor can a true council, neither 
can the Roman Church nor the pope when speaking in his official ca- 
pacity. Whoever does not accept the doctrine of the Roman Church * 
and of the Roman pontiff as the infallible rule of faith from which 
sacred Scripture derives strength and authority is a heretic, and he 
who declares that in the matter of indulgences the Roman Church 
cannot do what actually it does is a heretic. Then Prierias proceeded 
to refute Luther's errors, describing him on the way as a leper with a 
brain of brass and a nose of iron. 

Luther retorted: 


I am sorry now that I despised Tetzel. Ridiculous as he was, he was 
more acute than you. You cite no Scripture. You give no reasons. Like 
an insidious devil you pervert the Scriptures. You say that the Church 



consists virtually in the pope. What abominations will you not have to 
regard as the deeds of the Church? Look at the ghastly shedding of 
blood by Julius II. Look at the outrageous tyranny of Boniface VIII, 
who, as 'the proverb declares, "came in as a wolf, reigned as a lion, and 
died as a dog." If the Church consists representatively in the cardinals, 
what do you make of a general council of the whole Church? You call 
me a leper because I mingle truth with error. I am glad you admit there 
is some truth. You make the pope into an emperor in power and violence. 
The Emperor Maximilian and the Germans will not tolerate this. 

The radicalism of this tract lies not in its invective but in its af- 
firmation that the pope might err and a council might err and that 
only Scripture is the final authority. Prior to the appearance of this 
declaration the pope had already taken action. On the seventh of 
August, Luther received a citation to appear at Rome to answer 
to charges of heresy and contumacy. He was given sixty days in which 
to make his appearance. On the following day Luther wrote to the 
elector to remind him of his previous assurance that the case would 
not be taken to Rome. Then began a tortuous series of negotiations 
culminating in Luther's hearing before the Diet of Worms. The sig- 
nificance of that occasion is that an assembly of the German nation 
came to function as a council of the Catholic Church. The popes 
were doing their best to stifle or control councils. The result was that 
a secular assembly assumed conciliar functions, but not until after 
many other devices had first been tried. 


The initial step toward a hearing before a German diet was the 
transfer of Luther's trial from Rome to Germany. To this end on 
August 8 he besought the intervention of the elector. The plea was 
addressed not directly to him but to the court chaplain, George 
Spalatin, who from now on played a large role as the intermediary 
between the professor and the prince. Frederick was eager that his 
right hand might plausibly claim ignorance of the left, and was very 
chary of appearing to endorse Luther's opinions or of backing his 
person beyond the due of any subject. The elector protested not to 



have spoken with Luther more than twenty words in all his 
life. Now in response to the plea transmitted by Spalatin, 

Frederick opened negotiations 
with Cardinal Cajetan, the pa- 
pal legate, to give Luther a per- 
sonal hearing in connection 
with the forthcoming meeting 
of the imperial diet at Augs- 
burg. The hearing was to be 
private and not before the diet, 
but would at least be on Ger- 
man soil. The gain on this score 
was offset, however, by the 
competence and character of 
Cardinal Cajetan, a high papal- 
ist of integrity and erudition. 
He could scarcely tolerate Lu- 
ther's Reply to Prierias or the 
Sermon on the Ban, and would 
be less inclined to moderation 
because Emperor Maximilian 
had been incensed by the 
excerpts from the reputed 

sermon and had himself taken the initiative on the fifth of August 
in writing to the pope "to set a stop to the most perilous at- 
tack of Martin Luther on indulgences lest not only the people but 
even the princes be seduced." With the emperor, the pope, and the 
cardinal against him Luther had but slender hope of escaping the stake. 
He started for Augsburg with grave misgiving. The danger was 
vastly greater than three years later when he went to Worms as the 
champion of an aroused nation. At this time he was only an Augus- 
tinian eremite suspected of heresy. He saw ahead the stake and said 
to himself, "Now I must die. What a disgrace I shall be to my par- 
ents! " On the road he contracted an intestinal infection and well-nigh 
fainted. Even more disconcerting was the recurring doubt whether 



the taunt of his critics might after all be right, "Are you alone wise 
and all the ages in error?" Luther's friends had advised him not to 
enter Augsburg without a safe conduct, and Frederick at length ob- 
tained one from Emperor Maximilian. Cajetan, on being consulted, 
was incensed. "If you don't trust me/' he said, "why do you ask my 
opinion, and if you do why is a safe conduct necessary? " 

But the cardinal was in a much more complacent mood than Lu- 
ther had reason to know. The diet was already over, and during its 
course he had learned much. His mission had been to rally the north 
for a great new crusade against the Turk. The Bohemian heretics 
should be reconciled in order that they might participate in the enter- 
prise; a tax should be levied for the purpose; important persons were 
to be enlisted by emoluments and distinctions. The Archbishop of 
Mainz was to be elevated to the purple, and Emperor Maximilian to 
be decorated with a helmet and dagger as the Protector of the Faith. 
Incidentally the tares were to be weeded from the vineyard of the 

The diet opened with characteristic medieval pageantry and 
etiquette. All due deference was shown to the cardinal. Albert of 
Mainz received the purple with becoming blushes, and the emperor 
accepted the dagger without demur. But when the business began, 
the princes were not ready to fight the Turk under the auspices 
of the Church. They were through with crusades and averred their 
inability to raise a tax after being so exploited by the Church. The 
grievances of the German nation were presented, as on many previous 
occasions, but this time with fangs. The document declared: 

These sons of Nimrod grab cloisters, abbeys, prebends, canonates, and 
parish churches, and they leave these churches without pastors, the 
people without shepherds. Annates and indulgences increase. In cases 
before the ecclesiastical courts the Roman Church smiles on both sides 
for a little palm grease. German money in violation of nature flies over 
the Alps. The pastors given to us are shepherds only in name. They care 
for nothing but fleece and batten on the sins of the people. Endowed 
masses are neglected, the pious founders cry for vengeance. Let the 
Holy Pope Leo stop these abuses. 



Cajetan failed in all his large objectives. The crusade and the tax 
had been rejected. Could he succeed better with the weed in the 
vineyard of the Lord? He sensed that he must tread warily, but he 
was shackled by papal instructions which allowed him only to recon- 
cile Luther to the Church in case he recanted, and, in case he did 
not, to send him bound to Rome. The aid of the secular arm should 
be invoked, particularly of Emperor Maximilian, whose remonstrance 
may well have prompted the pope's instructions. 

The genuineness of this papal document was first impugned by 
Luther and subsequently by modern historians on the ground that 
the pope would not take such summary action before the expiration 
of the sixty days allowed in the citation. But the pope had merely 
given Luther sixty days in which to appear, and had made no promises 
in case he did not. Besides, as Cardinal de Medici wrote to Cajetan 
on the seventh of October, "In cases of notorious heresy no further 
ceremony or citation needs to be observed." 

The genuineness of these instructions cannot be absolutely estab- 
lished because the original is not extant. The Vatican archives con- 
tain, however, the manuscript of another letter written on the very 
same day by the pope to Frederick, which is no less peremptory. 

Beloved son, the apostolic benediction be upon you. We recall that 
the chief ornament of your most noble family has been devotion to the 
faith of God and to the honor and dignity of the Holy See. Now we 
hear that a son of iniquity, Brother Martin Luther of the Augustinian 
eremites, hurling himself upon the Church of God, has your support. 
Even though we know it to be false, we must urge you to clear the 
reputation of your noble family from such calumny. Having been advised 
by the Master of the Sacred Palace that Luther's teaching contains 
heresy, we have cited him to appear before Cardinal Cajetan. We call 
upon you to see that Luther is placed in the hands and under the juris- 
diction of this Holy See lest future generations reproach you with having 
fostered the rise of a most pernicious heresy against the Church of God. 


In the light of this letter the instructions to Cajetan need not be 
doubted on the score of the content. Obviously they curtailed his 



freedom, and a fresh memorandum limited him to inquiry as to 
Luther's teaching. There should be no discussion. Three interviews 
took place-on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the twelfth 
through the fourteenth of October, 1518. Staupitz was among those 
present. On the first day Luther prostrated himself in all humility, 


and the cardinal raised him up in all paternity and then informed 
him that he must recant. Luther answered that he had not made the 
arduous journey to Augsburg to do what he could have done quite as 
well at Wittenberg. He would like to be instructed as to his errors. 
The cardinal replied that the chief was the denial of the Church's 
treasury of merit clearly enunciated in the bull Unigenitus of Pope 
Clement VI in the year 1343. "Here," said Cajetan, "y ou have a 
statement by the pope that the merits of Christ are a treasure of 
indulgences." Luther, who knew the text well, answered that he would 
recant if it said so. Cajetan chuckled, leafed through the page to the 
spot where it said that Christ by his sacrifice acquired a treasure. 
"Oh, yes," said Luther, "but you said that the merits of Christ are 



a treasure. This says he acquired a treasure. To be and to acquire 
do not mean the same thing. You need not think we Germans are 
ignorant of grammar." 

The reply was both rude and irrelevant. Luther blustered because 
he was cornered. Any unprejudiced reader would have said that 
the cardinal correctly paraphrased the sense of the decretal which 
declares that Christ by his sacrifice acquired a treasure which through 
the power of the keys has been placed at the disposal of Peter and 
his successors in order to release the faithful from temporal penalties. 
This treasure has been increased by the merits of the Blessed Virgin 
and the saints. The pope dispenses this store as a treasury to those 
who visit Rome in the jubilee year 1350, when to those penitent and 
confessed may be given full remission of all their sins. 

The whole concept of the treasury of the surplus merits of Christ 
and the saints is unmistakably here, but Luther was trapped because 
he must recant or reject the decretal or interpret it in an acceptable 
sense. He tried the latter and, realizing the delicacy of the task, 
requested to be allowed to submit a statement in writing, remarking 
en passant that they had "wrangled quite enough." The cardinal 
was nettled, for he realized that he had gone beyond his instructions 
in debating with Luther. "My son," he snapped, "I did not wrangle 
with you. I am ready to reconcile you with the Roman Church." 
But since reconciliation was possible only through recantation, Lutker 
protested that he ought not to be condemned unheard and unrefuted. 
"I am not conscious," said he, "of going against Scripture, the fathers, 
the decretals, or right reason. I may be in error. I will submit to the 
judgment of the universities of Basel, Freiburg, Louvain, and, if need 
be, of Paris." This was a most undiplomatic attempt to evade the 
cardinal's jurisdiction. 

The written statement was only a more ingenious and labored 
effort to place a favorable construction on the decretal. Cajetan 
must have impressed this upon Luther, for he shifted ground and 
came out with a blunt rejection of the decretal and of the authority 
of the pope who formulated it. "I am not so audacious that for the 



sake of a single obscure and ambiguous decretal of a human pope 
I would recede from so many and such clear testimonies of divine 
Scripture. For, as one of the canon lawyers has said, 'in a matter 
of faith not only is a council above a pope but any one of the faithful, 
if armed with better authority and reason.' " The cardinal reminded 
Luther that Scripture has itself to be interpreted. The pope is the 
interpreter. The pope is above a council, above Scripture, above 
everything in the Church. "His Holiness abuses Scripture," retorted 
Luther. "I deny that he is above Scripture." The cardinal flared up 
and bellowed that Luther should leave and never come back unless 
he was ready to say, "Revoco" "I recant." 

Luther wrote home that the cardinal was no more fitted to handle 
the case than an ass to play on a harp. The cartoonists before long 
took up the theme and pictured the pope himself in this pose. 

Cajetan promptly cooled off and had dinner with Staupitz, urging 
him to induce Luther to recant and insisting that Luther had no 

better friend than he. Staupitz answered, 
"I have often tried, but I am not equal 
to him in ability and command of Scrip- 
ture. You are the pope's representative. 
It is up to you." 

"I am not going to talk with him any 
more," said the cardinal. "His eyes are as 
deep as a lake, and there are amazing 
speculations in his head." 

Staupitz released Luther from his vow 
. of obedience to the order. He may have 
\\ wished to relieve the Augustinians of 
the onus, or he may have sought to un- 
fetter the friar, but Luther felt that he 
had been disclaimed. "I was excommuni- 
cated three times," he said later, "first 
by Staupitz, secondly by the pope, and thirdly by the emperor." 

He waited until the next week in Augsburg to see whether he 
would be summoned further, then posted an appeal from Cajetan 




to the pope, pointing out that since the doctrine of indulgences 

had never been officially declared, a debate on dubious questions 

should not be regarded as heresy, especially on points unessential 

for salvation. Luther com- 

plained of the citation to Rome 

which would submit him to 

the Dominicans. Besides, Rome 

would not be a safe place 

even with a safe conduct. In 

Rome not even Pope Leo him- 

self was safe. The reference 

was to a conspiracy, lately dis- 

closed, among the very cardi- 

nals to poison His Holiness. 

In any case Luther as a mendi- 

cant had no funds for the 

journey. He had been gra- THE CARDINAL-FOOL 

ciously received by Cajetan, but instead of being allowed to debate 
had been given only an opportunity to recant. The proposal to sub- 
mit the case to the universities had been spurned. "I feel that I have 
not had justice because I teach nothing save what is in Scripture. 
Therefore I appeal from Leo badly informed to Leo better informed." 
Rumor then reached Luther that the cardinal was empowered to 
arrest him. The gates of the city were being guarded. With the con- 
nivance of friendly citizens Luther escaped by night, fleeing in such 
haste that he had to ride horseback in his cowl without breeches, 
spurs, stirrups, or a sword. He arrived in Niirnberg and there was 
shown the pope's instructions to Cajetan. Luther questioned the 
authenticity but at the same time contemplated an appeal from the 
pope to a general council. On the thirtieth day of October he was 
back in Wittenberg. 


His tenure there became highly precarious. Cajetan sent his report 
of the interview to Frederick the Wise, declaring that what Luther 



had said with regard to the papal decretal was not fit to put on paper. 
Let Frederick either send Luther bound to Rome or else banish him 
from his territories. The elector showed this to Luther, who made the 
matter still more difficult for his prince by publishing a version of the 
interview with Cajetan strengthened by subsequent reflection. There 
was no longer any attempt to explain the papal decretal in a favorable 
sense. Instead it was called emphatically false. The ambiguous decretal 
of a mortal pope was contrasted with the clear testimonies of holy 
Scripture. Luther continued: 

You are not a bad Christian if you deny the decretal. But if you deny 
the gospel, you are a heretic. I damn and detest this decretal. The Apos- 
tolic Legate opposed me with the thunder of his majesty and told me to 
recant. I told him the pope abused Scripture. I will honor the sanctity of 
the pope, but I will adore the sanctity of Christ and the truth. I do not 

deny this new monarchy of the Roman Church which has arisen in our 

* *r 

generation, but I deny that you cannot be a Christian without being 
subject to the decrees of the Roman pontiff. As for that decretal, I deny 
that the merits of Christ are a treasure of indulgences because his merits 
convey grace apart from the pope. The merits of Christ take away sins 
and increase merits. Indulgences take away merits and leave sins. These 
adulators put the pope above Scripture and say that he cannot err. In 
that case Scripture perishes, and nothing is left in the Church save the 
word of man. I resist those who in the name of the Roman Church wish 

to institute Babylon. 


On the twenty-eighth of November, Luther lodged with a notary 
an appeal from the pope to a general council, declaring that such a 
council, legitimately called in the Holy Spirit, represents the Catholic 
Church and is above the pope, who, being a man, is able to err, sin, and 
lie. Not even St. Peter was above this infirmity. If the pope orders 
anything against divine mandates, he is not to be obeyed. 

Therefore from Leo badly advised and from his excommunication, 
suspension, interdict, censures, sentences, and fines, and whatsoever de- 
nunciations and declarations of heresy and apostasy, which I esteem as 
null, nay, as iniquitous and tyrannical, I appeal to a general council 
in a safe place. 



Luther had the appeal printed and requested that all the copies be 
committed to him to be released only if he was actually banned, but 
the printer disregarded the injunction and gave them at once to the 
public. This put Luther in a most exposed position because Pope 
Julius II had ruled that an appeal without papal consent to a council 
would itself constitute heresy. 

Frederick the Wise was doubly embarrassed. He was a most Cath- 
olic prince, addicted to the cult of relics, devoted to indulgences, quite 
sincere in his claim that he was not in a position to judge Luther's 
teaching. On such matters he craved guidance, That was why he had 
founded the University of Wittenberg and why he so often turned 
to it for advice on matters juristic and theological. Luther was one of 
the doctors of that university, commissioned to instruct his prince 
in matters of faith. Was the prince to believe that his doctor of Holy 
Scripture was in error? Of course, if the pope declared him to be a 
heretic, that would settle the matter, but the pope had not yet passed 
sentence. The theological faculty at Wittenberg had not repudiated 
Luther. Many scholars throughout Germany believed him to be 
right. If Frederick should take action prior to papal condemnation, 
might he not be resisting the word of God? On the other hand, the 
pope had urged that Luther be taken into custody and had called 
him a "son of iniquity." Might not a refusal to comply mean the har- 
boring of a heretic? Such questions troubled Frederick. He differed 
from other princes of his time in that he never asked how to extend 
his boundaries nor even how to preserve his dignities. His only ques- 
tion was, "What is my duty as a Christian prince?" At this juncture 
he was gravely disturbed and would take no action beyond writing 
on the nineteenth of November beseeching the emperor either to 
drop the case or to grant a hearing before unimpeachable judges in 

Luther wrote to the elector: 

I am sorry that the legate blames you. He is trying to bring the whole 
House of Saxony into disrepute. He suggests that you send me to Rome 
or banish me. What am I, a poor monk, to expect if I am banished? 
Since I am in danger enough in your territory, what would it be outside? 



But lest Your Honor suffer on my account I will gladly leave your 

To Staupitz, Luther wrote: 

The prince opposed the publication of my version of the interview 
but has at length given his consent. The legate has asked him to send 
me to Rome or banish me. The prince is very solicitous for me, but he 
would be happier if I were somewhere else. I told Spalatin if the ban 
came I would leave. He dissuaded me from precipitant flight to France. 

When at Augsburg one of the Italians had asked Luther where he 
would go if abandoned by the prince, he had answered, "Under the 
open sky." 
On the twenty-fifth of November he sent word to Spalatin: 

I am expecting the curses of Rome any day. I have everything in 
readiness. When they come, I am girded like Abraham to go I know not 
where, but sure of this, that God is everywhere. 

Staupitz wrote Luther from Salzburg in Austria: 

The world hates the truth. By such hate Christ was crucified, and 
what there is in store for you today if not the cross I do not know. You 
have few friends, and would that they were not hidden for fear of the 
adversary. Leave Wittenberg and come to me that we may live and die 
together. The prince [Frederick] is in accord. Deserted let us follow 
the deserted Christ. 

Luther told his congregation that he was not saying good-by; but if 
they should find him gone, then let this be his farewell. He entertained 
a few friends at supper. In another two hours he would have left had 
not a letter come from Spalatin saying that the prince wished him to 
stay. Precisely what had happened we shall never know. Years after- 
ward Luther declared that the prince had in mind a plan to hide him, 
but a few weeks after the event Luther wrote, "At first the prince 
would have been willing not to have me here." Two years later Fred- 
erick justified himself before Rome for taking no action against Lu- 



ther on the ground that he had been ready to accept Luther's offer 
to leave when word came from the papal nuncio advising that Luther 
would be much less dangerous under surveillance than at large. Fred- 
erick of course might have said this after the event, even though secret- 
ly he had entertained the design of spiriting Luther to some hide-out. 
Yet it is equally possible that for a moment Frederick was ready to 
yield but delayed until after the pope had made his move. At any rate 
on the eighteenth of December, Frederick sent to Cajetan the only 
document he ever addressed to the Roman curia on Luther's behalf: 

We are sure that you acted paternally toward Luther, but we under- 
stand that he was not shown sufficient cause to revoke. There are learned 
men in the universities who hold that his teaching has not been shown to 
be unjust, unchristian, or heretical. The few who think so are jealous of 
his attainments. If we understood his doctrine to be impious or untenable, 
we would not defend it. Our whole purpose is to fulfill the office of a 
Christian prince. Therefore we hope that Rome will pronounce on the 
question. As for sending him to Rome or banishing him, that we will do 
only after he has been convicted of heresy. His offer to debate and sub- 
mit to the judgment of the universities ought to be considered. He 
should be shown in what respect he is a heretic and not condemned in 
advance. We will not lightly permit ourselves to be drawn into error 
nor to be made disobedient to the Holy See. We wish you to know that 
the Univeristy of Wittenberg has recently written on his behalf. A copy 
is appended. 

Luther commented to Spalatin: 

I have seen the admirable words of our Most Illustrious Prince to our 
Lord the Legate of Rome. Good God, with what joy I read them and 
read them over again! 




RESUMABLY the shift in papal policy was due 
in part to the discerning reports of Cardinal 
Cajetan. He well knew that a man may be a 
vexation without being a heretic, because 
heresy involves a rejection of the established 
dogma of the Church, and the doctrine of in- 
dulgences had not yet received an official pa- 
pal definition. The pope must first speak; and 
only then, if Luther refused to submit, could he properly be placed 
under the ban. A papal declaration was at last forthcoming, composed 
in all likelihood by Cajetan himself. On November 9, 1518, the bull 
Cum Postquam definitely clarified many of the disputed points. In- 
dulgences were declared to apply only to penalty and not to guilt, 
which must first have been remitted through the sacrament of pen- 
ance. Not the eternal pains of hell but only the temporal penalties 
of earth and purgatory might be diminished. Over the penalties im- 
posed on earth by himself, the pope of course exercised complete 
jurisdiction by virtue of the power of absolution. But in the case of 
the penalties of purgatory he could do no more than present to God 
the treasury of the superfluous merits of Christ and the saints by way 
of petition. This decretal terminated some of the worst abuses. 

Had it appeared earlier, the controversy might conceivably have 
been terminated, but in the interim Luther had attacked not only 
the papal power to loose but also the power to bind through the ban. 
He had further declared the pope and councils to be capable of error. 
He had undercut the biblical text used to support the sacrament of 



penance and had rejected a portion of the canon law as incompatible 
with Scripture. The Dominicans had called him a notorious heretic, 
and the pope had referred to him as a son of iniquity. 

But how was he to be handled? The conciliatory policy commenced 
in December, 1518, was prompted by considerations of politics. The 
pope knew that the plan for a crusade had been repudiated, that the 
tax had been refused, that the grievances of the German nation were 
recriminatory. There was a more serious consideration. Emperor 
Maximilian died on the twelfth of January. An election to the office 
of Holy Roman Emperor was thereby precipitated, and for some 
time earlier Maximilian was known to have been scheming to ensure 
the election of his grandson Charles as his successor. 

The empire was a waning but still imposing legacy from the Middle 
Ages. The office of emperor was elective, and any European prince 
was eligible. The electors were, however, preponderantly German and 
preferred a German. Yet they were realistic enough to perceive that 
no German had sufficient strength in his own right to sustain the of- 
fice. For that reason they were ready to accept the head of one of 
the great powers, and the choice lay between Francis of France and 
Charles of Spain. The pope objected, however, to either because an 
accretion of power on one side or the other would destroy that 
balance on which papal security depended. When the Germans de- 
spaired of a German, the pope threw his support to Frederick the 
Wise. Under such circumstances his wishes with regard to Martin 
Luther could not lightly be disregarded. The situation of course was 
altered when Frederick, sensible of his inadequacy, defeated himself 
by voting for the Hapsburg who on June 28, 1519, was chosen as 
Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. Yet the situation did not so 
greatly alter, because for fully a year and a half thereafter Charles 
was too occupied in Spain to concern himself with Germany, and 
Frederick remained the pivotal figure. The pope still could not afford 
to alienate him unduly over Luther. 

Papal policy became conciliatory; and Cajetan was assigned an 
assistant, a German related to Frederick the Wise, Carl von Miltitz 
by name, whose assignment was to curry the favor of the elector and 



to keep Luther quiet until the election was settled. For these ends 
Miltitz was equipped with every arrow in the quiver of the Vatican, 
from indulgences to interdicts. In order to soften Frederick he brought 
new privileges for the Castle Church at Wittenberg, whereby to those 
who made appropriate contributions purgatory might be reduced by 
a hundred years for every bone of the saints in Frederick's famous 
collection. He was further honored by a long-coveted distinction, 
the gift of a golden rose from the hand of the pope. In conferring this 
honor Leo X wrote to him: 

Beloved son, the most holy golden rose was consecrated by us on the 
fourteenth day of the holy fast. It was anointed with holy oil and 
sprinkled with fragrant incense with the papal benediction. It will be 
presented to you by our most beloved son, Carl von Miltitz, of noble 
blood and noble manners. This rose is the symbol of the most precious 
blood of our Saviour, by which we are redeemed. The rose is a flower 
among flowers, the fairest and most fragrant on earth. Therefore, dear 
son, permit the divine fragrance to enter the innermost heart of Your 
Excellency, that you may fulfill whatever the aforementioned Carl von 
Miltitz shall show you. 

No little delay occurred in the delivery of the rose, because it was 
deposited for safekeeping in the bank of the Fuggers at Augsburg. 

Frederick suggested another reason for the delay. "Miltitz," he 
said, "may refuse to give me the golden rose unless I banish the monk 
and pronounce him a heretic." Luther heard that Miltitz was armed 
with a papal brief which made the gift of the rose conditional on his 
extradition, but that Miltitz was deterred from taking this course 
by the prudence of a cardinal who exclaimed, "You are a pack of 
fools if you think you can buy the monk from the prince." Miltitz 
was most certainly preceded by letters from the pope and the curia 
to Frederick urging all to assist against that "child of Satan, son of 
perdition, scrofulous sheep, and tare in the vineyard, Martin Luther." 
Brother Martin fully expected to be arrested, and Miltitz may have 
started out with that intent. "I learned afterwards," wrote Luther to 
Staupitz, "at the court of the prince, that Miltitz came armed with 



seventy apostolic briefs, that he might take me to the Jerusalem 
which kills the prophets, the purple Babylon." Miltitz boasted in 
Germany that he had the friar in his pocket, but he was made quick- 
ly aware that too peremptory a course would not be discreet. In the 
inns on the way he questioned the people and discovered that for 
every one in favor of the pope there were three for Luther. He frank- 
ly confessed that no case had so plagued the Church in a thousand 
years, and Rome would gladly pay ten thousand ducats to have it 
out of the way. The curia was prepared to do even more than that. 
Frederick the Wise was given to understand that if he were compliant 
he might be permitted to name a cardinal. He took this to mean that 
the dignity might be conferred on Luther. 

Miltitz arrived full of blandishments. In one interview he said to 
Luther, "We'll have it all fixed up in no time." He asked of Luther 
that he should subscribe to the new papal decretal on indulgences. 
Luther replied that there was not a word in it from Scripture. Then 
Miltitz required of him but one thing, that he should refrain from 
debate and publication if his opponents would observe the same con- 
dition. Luther promised. Miltitz wept. "Crocodile tears," commented 

Tetzel was made the scapegoat. Miltitz summoned him to a hearing 
and charged that he was extravagant in traveling with two horses 
and a carriage, and that he had two illegitimate children. Tetzel re- 
tired to a convent to die of chagrin. Luther wrote to him, "Don't take 
it too hard. You didn't start this racket. The child had another fa- 
ther." The elector in the meantime took advantage of his singular 
position to use Miltitz for a plan of his own. Let Luther's case be re- 
ferred to a commission of German ecclesiastics under the chairman- 
ship of the Archbishop of Trier, Richard of Greiff enklau, who might 
please the Germans because he was an elector, the pope because he 
was an archbishop, and Luther because in the election he was oppos- 
ing the papal candidate. Cajetan was won for the scheme, and Richard 
expressed his willingness. Frederick arranged with him that the hear- 
ing take place at the forthcoming meeting of the Diet of Worms. 



But the pope neither authorized nor disavowed the proposal, and for 
the moment nothing came of it. 

Luther in the meantime became involved in further debate. He 
had agreed to refrain from controversy only if his opponents also 

observed the truce, and they 
did not. The universities 
were becoming involved. 
The University of Witten- 
berg was coming to be re- 
garded as a Lutheran insti- 
tution. Prominent among the 
faculty were Carlstadt and 
Melanchthon. The former 
was Luther's senior and had 
conferred on him the doc- 
tor's hood. Carlstadt was 
erudite but devoid of the 
caution which learning 
PHILIP MELANCHTHON sometimes induces. He was 

sensitive, impressionable, 

impetuous, and at times tumultuous. His espousal of Luther's teach- 
ings prompted him to indulge in such blasts against critics that Luther 
himself was prone at times to wince. 

Melanchthon was gentler, younger only twenty-one a prodigy 
of learning, enjoying already a European reputation. In appearance 
he was not prepossessing, as he had an impediment of speech and a 
hitch in the shoulder when he walked. Luther once, when asked how 
he envisaged the appearance of the apostle Paul, answered with an af- 
fectionate guffaw, "I think he was a scrawny shrimp like Melanch- 
thon." But when the stripling opened his mouth, he was like the boy 
Jesus in the temple. He came as professor of Greek, not of theology, 
and without any commitment to Luther; but soon he succumbed to 
his spell. His conversion stemmed from no travail of spirit but from 
agreement with Luther's interpretation of the apostle Paul. These 
were the leaders of the Wittenberg phalanx. 




The Goliath of the Philistines who stepped forth to taunt Israel was 
a professor from the University of Ingolstadt, John Eck by name. 
On the appearance of Luther's theses he had leveled against them an 
attack under the title Obelisks, the word used to designate interpola- 
tions in Homer. Luther replied with Asterisks. Eck's attack was gall- 
ing to Luther because he was an old friend, not a mendicant but a 
humanist, not "a perfidious Italian" but a German, and not the least be- 
cause he was formidable. Despite his butcher's face and bull's voice 
he was a man of prodigious memory, torrential fluency, and uncanny 
acumen a professional disputant who would post to Vienna or Bolog- 
na to debate the works of the Trinity, the substance of angels, or the 
contract of usury. Particularly exasperating was his propensity for 
clothing the opprobrious with plausibility and driving an opponent to 
incriminating conclusions. 

Eck succeeded in inducing, not his own institution, but the 
University of Leipzig to enter the lists as the challenger of 

Wittenberg. Thereby old jeal- 
ousies were brought into align- 
ment with the new conflict, be- 
cause Wittenberg and Leipzig 
represented the rival sections of 
electoral and ducal Saxony. 
Eck approached the patron of 
Leipzig, Duke George the 
Bearded all the Saxon princes 
were bearded, but George left 
it to the others to be known as 
the Wise, the Steadfast, and the 
Magnanimous. He agreed that 
Eck should debate at Leipzig 
with Carlstadt, who in Luther's 
defense had already launched 
at Eck a virulent attack. But Eck had no mind to fence with the sec- 
ond. He openly baited Luther by challenging his alleged assertions 




that the Roman Church in the days of Constantine was not above the 
others, and that the occupant of the see of Peter had not always been 
recognized as the successor of Peter and the vicar of Christ in other 
words, that the papacy was of recent and therefore of human origin. 
Luther retorted: 

Let it be understood that when I say the authority of the Roman 
pontiff rests on a human decree I am not counseling disobedience. But 
we cannot admit that all the sheep of Christ were committed to Peter. 
What, then, was given to Paul? When Christ said to Peter, "Feed my 
sheep," he did not mean, did he, that no one else can feed them without 
Peter's permission? Nor can I agree that the Roman pontiffs cannot err 
or that they alone can interpret Scripture. The papal decretal by a new 
grammar turns the words of Christ, "Thou art Peter" into "Thou art the 
primate." By the decretals the gospel is extinguished. I can hardly restrain 
myself against the most impious and perverse blasphemy of this decretal. 

Plainly the debate was between Eck and Luther, but to bring a 
man stigmatized by the pope as a "son of iniquity" out into the open 
in a public debate under the auspices of the orthodox University of 
Leipzig was daring. The bishop of the region interposed a prohibition. 
But Duke George rallied. He was later to become Luther's most im- 
placable opponent, but at the moment he really wanted to know 

As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, 
The soul from purgatory springs. 

He reminded the bishop: "Disputations have been allowed from 
ancient rimes, even concerning the Holy Trinity. What good is a 
soldier if he is not allowed to fight, a sheep dog if he may not bark, 
and a theologian if he may not debate? Better spend money to sup- 
port old women who can knit than theologians who cannot discuss." 
Duke George had his way. Luther was given a safe conduct to de- 
bate at Leipzig. "If that isn't the very devil!" commented Tetzel 
from his enforced retirement. 

Luther set himself to prepare for the debate. Since he had asserted 



that only in the decretals of the previous four hundred years could 
the claims of papal primacy be established, he must devote himself 
to a study of the decretals. As he worked, his conclusions grew ever 
more radical. To a friend he wrote in February: 

Eck is fomenting new wars against me. He may yet drive me to a 
serious attack upon the Romanists. So far I have been merely trifling. 

In March, Luther confided to Spalatin: 

I am sending Eck's letters in which he already boasts of having won the 
Olympic. I am studying the papal decretals for my debate. I whisper this 
in your ear, "I do not know whether the pope is Antichrist or his apos- 
de, so does he in his decretals corrupt and crucify Christ, that is, the 

The reference to Antichrist was ominous. Luther w r as to find it 
easier to convince men that the pope was Antichrist than that the 
just shall live by faith. The suspicion which Luther did not yet dare 
breathe in the open links him unwittingly with the medieval sectaries 
who had revived and transformed the theme of Antichrist, a figure in- 
vented by the Jew T s in their captivity to derive comfort from calamity 
on the ground that the coming of Messiah is retarded by the machina- 
tions of an Anti-Messiah, whose raging must reach a peak before 
the Saviour should come. The gloomiest picture of the present thus 
became the most encouraging for the future. The book of Revela- 
tion made of the Anti-Messiah an Antichrist and added the details 
that before the end two witnesses must testify and suffer martyrdom. 
Then would appear Michael the Archangel and a figure with eyes of 
flame upon a white horse to cast the beast into the abyss. How the 
theme was handled in Luther's day is graphically shown in a wood- 
cut from the Nurnberg Chronicle. Below on the left a very plausible 
Antichrist beguiles the people, while on the right the two witnesses 
from a pulpit instruct the throng. The hillock in the center is the 
Mount of Olives, from which Christ ascended into heaven and from 
which Antichrist is to be cast into hell. At the top Michael smites 
with his sword. 


Antichrist at the top is smitten by Michael and dragged by devils 
toward hell. The hillock is the Mount of Olives, -from 'which 
Christ ascended into heaven and from which Antichrist is cast 
down. In the foreground at the left Antichrist with a devil speaking 
into his ear is beguiling the people. On the right the two witnesses 
give their testimony. 


The theme became very popular in the late Middle Ages among 
the Fraticelli, Wycliffites, and Hussites, who identified the popes 
with the Antichrist soon to be overthrown. Luther was unwittingly 
in line with these sectaries, with one significant difference, however. 
Whereas they identified particular popes, because of their evil lives, 
with Antichrist, Luther held that every pope was Antichrist even 
though personally exemplary, because Antichrist is collective: an in- 
stitution, the papacy, a system which corrupts the truth of Christ. 
That was why Luther could repeatedly address Leo X in terms of 
personal respect only a week or so after blasting him as Antichrist. 
But all this was yet to come. On the eve of the Leipzig debate Luther 
was frightened by his own thoughts. To one who had been so devoted 
to the Holy Father as the vicar of Christ the very suggestion that he 
might be, after all, the great opponent of Christ was ghastly. At the 
same time the thought was comforting, for the doom of Antichrist 
was sure. If Luther should fall like the two witnesses, his assailant 
would early be demolished by the hand of God. It was no longer a 
fight merely with men, but against the principalities and the powers 
and the world ruler of this darkness in the heavenly places. 


The debate w r as held in Leipzig in the month of July. Eck came 
early and strode in a chasuble in the Corpus Christi procession. The 
Wittenbergers arrived a few days later, Luther, Carlstadt, Melanch- 
thon, and other doctors with two hundred students armed with 
battle-axes. Eck was provided by the town council with a bodyguard 
of seventy-six men to protect him day and night from the Witten- 
bergers and the Bohemians whom he believed to be among them. 
Morning and evening a guard marched with streaming banners to 
fife and drum, and stationed themselves at the castle gate. The debate 
had been scheduled to be held in the aula of the university; but so 
great was the concourse of abbots, counts, Knights of the Golden 
Fleece, learned and unlearned, that Duke George placed at their dis- 
posal the auditorium of the castle. Chairs and benches were decorated 
with tapestries, those of the Wittenbergers with the emblem of St. 



Martin and Eck's with the insigne of the dragon killer, St. George. 

On the opening day the assembly attended mass at six in the morn- 
ing in St. Thomas Church. The liturgy was sung by a choir of twelve 
voices under the leadership of George Rhaw, later to be the printer 
of Luther's music at Wittenberg. The assembly then transferred it- 
self to the castle. The session was opened with a Latin address of two 
hours by Duke George's secretary on the proper mode of conducting 
a theological discussion with decorum. "A grand address," said Duke 
George, "though I marvel that theologians should need such advice." 
Then the choir rendered the Veni, Sancte Spiritus while the town 
piper blew lustily. By then it was dinnertime. Duke George had an 
eye for the delicacies of the table. To Eck he sent a deer, to Carlstadt 
a roe, and wine all round. 

In the afternoon began the preliminary skirmish over the rules of 
the tournament. The first question was whether to have stenographers. 
Eck said no, because taking them into account would chill the pas- 
sionate heat of the debate. "The truth might fare better at a lower 
temperature,'* commented Melanchthon. Eck lost. The next question 
was whether to have judges. Luther said no. Frederick was arranging 
to have his case heard by the Archbishop of Trier, and he did not wish 
at this juncture to give the appearance of interjecting a rival plan. But 
Duke George was insistent. Luther lost. The universities of Erfurt 
and Paris were chosen. This was a reversion to the method several 
times previously proposed for the handling of his case. When Paris 
accepted, Luther demanded that the entire faculty be invited and not 
merely the theologians, whom he had come to distrust. "Why then," 
blurted Eck, "don't you refer the case to shoemakers and tailors?" 
The third question was whether to admit any books to the arena. Eck 
said no. Carlstadt, he charged, on the opening days lugged in tomes 
and read the audience to sleep. The Leipzigers in particular had to be 
awakened for dinner. Carlstadt accused Eck of wishing to befuddle 
the audience by a torrent of erudition. Carlstadt lost. By common 
consent the notes of the debate were not to be published until after 
the judges had submitted their verdict. The discussion proper then 



An eyewitness has left us a description of the contestants. 

Martin is of middle height, emaciated from care and study, so that 
you can almost count his bones through his skin. He is in the vigor of 
manhood and has a clear, penetrating voice. He is learned and has the 
Scripture at his fingers 1 ends. He knows Greek and Hebrew sufficiently 
to judge of the interpretations. A perfect forest of words and ideas 
stands at his command. He is affable and friendly, in no sense dour or 
arrogant. He is equal to anything. In company he is vivacious, jocose, 
always cheerful and gay no matter how hard his adversaries press him. 
Everyone chides him for the fault of being a little too insolent in his 
reproaches and more caustic than is prudent for an innovator in religion 
or becoming to a theologian. Much the same can be said of Carlstadt, 
though in a lesser degree. He is smaller than Luther, with a complexion 
of smoked herring. His voice is thick and unpleasant. He is slower in 
memory and quicker in anger. Eck is a heavy, square-set fellow with a 
full German voice supported by a hefty chest. He would make a 
tragedian or town crier, but his voice is rather rough than clear. His 
eyes and mouth and his whole face remind one more of a butcher than 
a theologian. 



After Carlstadt and Eck had wrestled for a week over the deprav- 
ity of man, Luther entered to discuss the antiquity of the papal and 
the Roman primacy, together with the question whether it was of 
human or divine institution. "What does it all matter," inquired 
Duke George, "whether the pope is by divine right or by human 
right? He remains the pope just the same/' "Perfectly right," said 
Luther, who insisted that by denying the divine origin of the papacy 
he was not counseling a withdrawal of obedience. But Eck saw more 
clearlv than Luther the subversiveness of his assertions. The claim of 
the pope to unquestioning obedience rests on the belief that his office 
is divinely instituted. Luther revealed how lightly after all he esteemed 
the office when he exclaimed, "Even if there were ten popes or a 
thousand popes there would be no schism. The unity of Christendom 
could be preserved under numerous heads just as the separated na- 
tions under different sovereigns dwell in concord." 

"I marvel," sniffed Eck, "that the Reverend Father should forget 
the everlasting dissension of the English and the French, the inveterate 
hatred of the French for the Spaniards, and all the Christian blood 
spilled over the Kingdom of Naples. As for me, I confess one faith, 
one Lord Jesus Christ, and I venerate the Roman pontiff as Christ's 


But to prove that Luther's views were subversive was not to prove 
that they were false. The contestants had to come to grips with history. 
Eck asserted that the primacy of the Roman see and the Roman bishop 
as the successor of Peter went back to the very earliest days of the 
Church. By way of proof he introduced letters ascribed to a bishop of 
Rome in the first century affirming, "The Holy Roman and Apostolic 
Church obtained the primacy not from the apostles but from ouar 
Lord and Saviour himself, and it enjoys pre-eminence of power above 
all of the churches and the whole flock of Christian people"; and 
again, "The sacerdotal order commenced in the period of the New 
Testament directly after our Lord Christ, when to Peter was commit- 
ted the pontificate previously exercised in the Church by Christ him- 
self." Both of these statements had been incorporated into the canon 



"I impugn these decretals," cried Luther, "No one will ever per- 
suade me that the holy pope and martyr said that." Luther was right. 
They are today universally recognized by Catholic authorities as be- 
longing to the spurious Isidorian decretals. Luther had done an ex- 
cellent piece of historical criticism, and without the help of Lorenzo 
Valla, whose work he had not yet seen. Luther pointed out that ac- 
tually in the early centuries bishops beyond Rome were not confirmed 
by nor subject to Rome, and the Greeks never accepted the Roman 
primacy. Surely the saints of the Greek Church were not on that ac- 
count to be regarded as damned. 


"I see," said Eck, "that you are following the damned and pestifer- 
ous errors of John Wyclif , who said, 'It is not necessary for salvation 
to believe that the Roman Church is above all others.' And you are 
espousing the pestilent errors of John Hus, who claimed that Peter 
neither was nor is the head of the Holy Catholic Church." 

"I repulse the charge of Bohemianism," roared Luther. "I have 
never approved of their schism. Even though they had divine right 
on their side, they ought not to have withdrawn from the Church, 
because the highest divine right is unity and charity." 

Eck was driving Luther onto ground especially treacherous at 
Leipzig, because Bohemia was near by, and within living memory the 
Bohemian Hussites, the followers of John Hus, burned for heresy 
at Constance, had invaded and ravaged the Saxon lands. The assem- 
bly took time out for lunch. Luther availed himself of the interlude 
to go to the university library and read the acts of the Council of Con- 
stance, by which Hus had been condemned. To his amazement he 
discovered among the reproved articles the following: "The one 
holy universal Church is the company of the predestined,", and again, 
"The universal Holy Church is one, as the number of the elect is one." 
The second of these statements he recognized as deriving directly from 
St. Augustine. When the assembly reconvened at two o'clock, Luther 
declared, "Among the articles of John Hus, I find many which are 


plainly Christian and evangelical, which the universal Church cannot 
condemn." Duke George at these words jabbed his elbows into his 
ribs and muttered audibly, "The plague!" His mind conjured up the 
Hussite hordes ravaging the Saxon lands. Eck had scored. 

Luther continued. "As for the article of Hus that 'it is not necessary 
for salvation to believe the Roman Church superior to all others' 
I do not care whether this comes from Wyclif or from Hus. I know 
that innumerable Greeks have been saved though they never heard 
this article. It is not in the power of the Roman pontiff or of the 
Inquisition to construct new articles of faith. No believing Christian 
can be coerced beyond holy writ. By divine law we are forbidden 
to believe anything which is not established by divine Scripture or 
manifest revelation. One of the canon lawyers has said that the opinion 
of a single private man has more weight than that of a Roman pontiff 
or an ecclesiastical council if grounded on a better authority or 
reason. I cannot believe that the Council of Constance would con- 
demn these propositions of Hus. Perhaps this section in the acts has 
been interpolated." 

"They are recorded," stated Eck, "in the reliable history of Jerome 
of Croatia, and their authenticity has never been impugned by the 

"Even so," replied Luther, "the council did not say that all the 
articles of Hus were heretical. It said that 'some were heretical, some 
erroneous, some blasphemous, some presumptuous, some seditious, 
and some offensive to pious ears respectively.' You should differen- 
tiate and tell us which were which." 

'Whichever they were," retorted Eck, "none of them was called 
most Christian and evangelical; and if you defend them, then you are 
heretical, erroneous, blasphemous, presumptuous, seditious, and of- 
fensive to pious ears respectively." 

"Let me talk German," demanded Luther. "I am being misunder- 
stood by the people. I assert that a council has sometimes erred and 
may sometimes err. Nor has a council authority to establish new ar- 
ticles of faith. A council cannot make divine right out of that which 



by nature is not divine right. Councils have contradicted each other, 
for the recent Lateran Council has reversed the claim of the councils 
of Constance and Basel that a council is above a pope. A simple lay- 
man armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a coun- 
cil without it. As for the pope's decretal on indulgences I say that 
neither the Church nor the pope can establish articles of faith. These 
must come from Scripture. For the sake of Scripture we should re- 
ject pope and councils." 

"But this," said Eck, "is the Bohemian virus, to attach more weight 
to one's own interpretation of Scripture than to that of the popes 
and councils, the doctors and the universities. When Brother Luther 
says that this is the true meaning of the text, the pope and councils 
say, 'No, the brother has not understood it correctly.' Then I will 
take the council and let the brother go. Otherwise all the heresies will 
be renewed. They have all appealed to Scripture and have believed 
their interpretation to be correct, and have claimed that the popes 
and the councils were mistaken, as Luther now does. It is rancid to 
say that those gathered in a council, being men, are able to err. This 
is horrible, that the Reverend Father against the holy Council of 
Constance and the consensus of all Christians does not fear to call 
certain articles of Hus and Wyclif most Christian and evangelical. I 
tell you, Reverend Father, if you reject the Council of Constance, if 
you say a council, legitimately called, errs and has erred, be then 
to me as a Gentile and a publican." 

Luther answered, "If you won't hold me for a Christian, at least 
listen to my reasons and authorities as you would to a Turk and in- 

Eck did. They went on to discuss purgatory. Eck cited the fa- 
mous passage from II Maccabees 12:45, "Wherefore he made the pro- 
pitiation for them that had died, that they might be released from 
their sin." Luther objected that the book of II Maccabees belongs 
to the Apocrypha and not to the canonical Old Testament, and is de- 
void of authority. This was the third time during the debate that he had 
impugned the relevance of the documentary buttresses of papal claims. 



First he had denied the genuineness of papal decretals of the first cen- 
tury, and he was right. Next he questioned the acts of the Council 
of Constance, and he was wrong. This time he rejected the authority 
of the Old Testament Apocrypha, which is, of course, a matter of 

Then they took up indulgences, and there was scarcely any de- 
bate. Eck declared that if Luther had not assailed the papal primacy, 



their differences could easily have been composed. On the subject of 
penance, however, Eck kept pressing Luther with the query, "Are 
you the only one that knows anything? Except for you is all the 
Church in error?" 

"I answer," replied Luther, "that God once spoke through the 
mouth of an ass. I will tell you straight what I think. 1 am a Christian 
theologian; and I am bound, not only to assert, but to defend the 
truth with my blood and death. I want to believe freely and be a slave 
to the authority of no one, whether council, university, or pope. I 
will confidently confess what appears to me to be true, whether it 
has been asserted by a Catholic or a heretic, whether it has been ap- 
proved or reproved by a council." 

The debate lasted eighteen days and "might have gone forever," 
said a contemporary, "had not Duke George intervened." He had 
not learned much about what happens when the coin in the coffer 
rings, and he needed the assembly hall for the entertainment of the 
Margrave of Brandenburg, on his way home from the imperial elec- 
tion. Both sides continued the controversy in a pamphlet war. The 
agreement to wait for the judgment of the universities before pub- 
lishing the notes was not observed, because Erfurt never reported at 
all, and Paris not for two years. 

Before leaving the debate a minor incident is worth recording 
because it is so revealing of the coarseness and insensitivity of that 
whole generation. Duke George had a one-eyed court fool. A comic 
interlude in the disputation was staged when Eck and Luther debated 
whether this fool should be allowed a wife, Luther pro and Eck con. 
Eck was so opprobrious that the fool took offense; and whenever sub- 
sequently Eck entered the hall, the fool made grimaces. Eck retaliated 
by mimicking the blind eye, at which the fool ripped out a volley of 
bitter profanity. The audience roared. 

After the debate Eck came upon a new fagot for Luther's pyre. 
"At any rate," he crowed, "no one is hailing me as the Saxon Hus." 
Two letters to Luther had been intercepted, from John Paduska and 
Wenzel Rozdalowski, Hussites of Prague, in which they said, "What 



Hus was once in Bohemia you, Martin, are in Saxony. Stand firm." 
When these letters did reach Luther, they were accompanied by a 
copy of Hus's work On the Church. "I agree now," said Luther, 
"with more articles of Hus than I did at Leipzig." By February, 1520, 
he was ready to say, "We are all Hussites without knowing it." By 
that time Eck was in Rome informing the pope that the son of iniquity 
was also the Saxon Hus. 




N THE early years of the Reform a cartoon 
appeared portraying Luther as "the German 
Hercules." The pope is suspended in derision 
from his nose. Beneath his hand cowers the 
inquisitor Hochstraten, and about him sprawl 
the scholastic theologians. The caption reveals 
that Luther had become a national figure. Such 
prominence came to him only after the Leip- 
zig debate. Why the debate should of itself have so contributed to his 
reputation is puzzling. He had said very little at Leipzig which he 
had not said before, and the partial endorsement of Hus might rather 
have brought opprobrium than acclaim. Perhaps the very fact that 
an insurgent heretic had been allowed to debate at all was what at- 
tracted public notice. 

A more important factor, however, may have been the dissemination 
of Luther's writings. John Froben, that hardy printer of Basel, had 
collected and brought out in a single edition the Ninety-Five Theses, 
the Resolutions, the Answer to Prierias, the sermon On Penitence, 
and the sermon On the Eucharist. In February, 1519, he was able to 
report to Luther that only ten copies were left, and that no issue 
from his press had ever been so quickly exhausted. The copies had 
gone not only to Germany but also to other lands, making of Luther 
not only a national but also an international figure. Six hundred had 
been sent to France and to Spain, others to Brabant and England. 
Zwingli, the reformer of Switzerland, ordered several hundred in 


From a cartoon attributed to Holbein and assigned to the year 1522. 
The pope is suspended from Luther's nose. Jakob von Hochstraten, the 
inquisitor, is under his hand. Among the vanquished are St. Thomas, 
Duns Scotus, Robert Holcot, William of Occam, Nicholas of Lyra, 
Aristotle, and Peter Lombard in the immediate foreground with the 
title of his Sentences upside down. The devil disguised as a monk is 
fleeing in the background. 


order that a colporteur on horseback might circulate them among the 
people. Even from Rome came a letter to Luther written by a former 
fellow student, informing him that disciples at the peril of their lives 
were spreading his tracts under the shadow of the Vatican. He de- 
served a statue as the father of his country. 

Such acclaim speedily made Luther the head of a movement which 
has come to be known as the Reformation. As it took on shape, it was 
bound to come into relation with the two other great movements of 
the day, the Renaissance and nationalism. 

The Renaissance was a many-sided phenomenon in which a central 
place was occupied by the ideal commonly called Humanism. It was 
basically an attitude to life, the view that the proper interest of man- 
kind is man, who should bring every area of the earth within his com- 
pass, every domain of knowledge within his ken, and every discipline 
of life within his rational control. War should be reduced to strategy, 
politics to diplomacy, art to perspective, and business to bookkeeping. 
The individual should seek to comprise within his grasp all the exploits 
and all the skills of which man is capable. The uomo unfoersale, the 
universal man, should be courtier, politician, explorer, artist, scientist, 
financier, and quite possibly divine as well. The literature and lan- 
guages of classical antiquity were pursued with avidity as a part of the 
quest for universal knowledge, and because the Hellenic attitude to 
life had been similar. 

This program entailed no overt breach with the Church, since the 
secularized popes of the Renaissance became its patrons, and because a 
synthesis between the classical and the Christian had already been 
achieved by St. Augustine. At the same time a menace to Christianity 
was implicit in the movement because it was centered on man, because 
the quest for truth in any quarter might lead to relativity, and because 
the philosophies of antiquity had no place for the distinctive tenets 
of Christianity: the Incarnation and the Cross. 

Yet only one overt clash occurred between the Humanists and the 
Church. The issue was over freedom of scholarship, and the scene was 
Germany. Here a fanatical Jewish convert, Pfeiferkorn by name, 
sought to have all the Hebrew books destroyed. He was resisted by 



the great German Hebraist, Reuchlin, the great-uncle of Melanchthon. 
The obscurantists enlisted the aid of the inquisitor Jacob von Hoch- 
straten, who in the cartoon lies beneath Luther's hand, and of Sylvester 
Prierias as the prosecutor. The upshot was a compromise. Reuchlin was 
permitted to continue his teaching, though saddled with the costs of 
the trial. Essentially he had won. 

At several points Humanism and the Reformation could form an 
alliance. Both demanded the right of free investigation. The Humanists 
included the Bible and the biblical languages in their program of the 
revival of antiquity, and Luther's battle for the right understanding 
of Paul appeared to them and to Luther himself as a continuation 
of the Reuchlin affair. The opponents were the same, Hochstraten 
and Prierias; and the aim was the same, unimpeded inquiry. The 
Humanist of Niirnberg, Willibald Pirkheimer, lampooned Eck by 
portraying him as unable to secure a doctor in the Humanist cities 
of Augsburg and Niirnberg and under the necessity, therefore, 
of turning to Leipzig, the scene of his recent "triumph" over Luther. 
The message was sent by a witch who, to make her goat mount the 
air, pronounced the magic words Tartshoh Nerokreffefp, which 
in reverse give the names of the principals in the Reuchlin case, 
Pfefferkor(e)n and Ho(c)hstrat(en). 

Luther's exposure of the spuriousness of papal documents appeared 
to the Humanists as to him to be entirely on a par with Lorenzo 
Valla's demonstration that the Donation of Constantine was a forgery. 
For different reasons Humanism as well as the Reformation attacked 
indulgences. What the one called blasphemy the other ridiculed as 
silly superstition. 

The deepest affinity appeared at that point where Renaissance 
man was not sure of himself, when he began to wonder whether his 
valor might not be thwarted by the goddess Fortuna or whether his 
destiny had not already been determined by the stars. Here was 
Luther's problem of God the capricious and God the adverse. 
Renaissance man, confronted by this enigma and having no deep 
religion of his own, was commonly disposed to find solace less in 



Luther's stupefying irrationalities than in the venerable authority 
of the Church. 

But reactions were diverse. Many early admirers of Luther, like 
Pirkheimer, recoiled and made their peace with Rome. Three ex- 
amples well illustrate the varied courses taken by others: Erasmus 
passed from discriminating support of Luther to querulous opposition; 
Melanchthon became the most devoted and the most disconcerting 
of colleagues; Diirer might have become the artist of the Reforma- 
tion had not death intervened not too long after his crisis of the 


Erasmus was closer to Luther than many another figure of the 
Renaissance because he was so Christian. The major portion of his 
literary labors was devoted, not to the classics, but to the New 
Testament and the Fathers. His ideal, like that of Luther, was to 
revive the Christian consciousness of Europe through the dissemina- 
tion of the sacred writings, and to that end Erasmus first made avail- 
able in print the New Testament in the original Greek. From the 
press of Froben in 1516 was issued a handsome volume, the Greek 
type reminiscent of manuscripts, the text accompanied by a literal 
translation and illumined by annotations. The volume reached Wit- 
tenberg as Luther was lecturing on the ninth chapter of Romans, 
and thereafter became his working tool. From the accompanying 
translation he learned the inaccuracy of the Vulgate rendering of 
"do penance" instead of "be penitent." Erasmus throughout his life 
continued to improve the tools of biblical scholarship. Luther prized 
his efforts and in his lectures on Galatians in 1519 declared that he 
would have been happier to have waited for a commentary from the 
s. The first letter of Luther to Erasmus was adulatory. 

The prince of the Humanists was called "Our delight and our hope. 
Who has not learned from him?" In the years 1517-1519 Luther 
was so sensible of his affinity with the Humanists as to adopt their fad 
of Hellenizing vernacular names. He called himself Eleutherius, 
"the free man. 



Luther and Erasmus did have much in common. Both insisted that 
the Church of their day had relapsed into the Judaistic legalism 
castigated by the apostle Paul. Christianity, said Erasmus, has been 
made to consist not in loving one's neighbor but in abstaining from 
butter and cheese during Lent. What are pilgrimages, he demanded, 
but outward feats, often at the expense of family responsibility? 
What good are indulgences to those who do not mend their ways? 
The costly votive offerings which bedeck the tomb of St. Thomas 
at Canterbury might better be devoted to the charity dear to the 
saint. Those who never in their lives endeavored to imitate St. Francis 
desire to die in his cowl. Erasmus scoffed at those who to forfend 
the fiends trusted to a garment incapable of killing lice. 

Both men had a quarrel with the pope, Luther because the pontiffs 
imperiled the salvation of souls, Erasmus because they fostered ex- 
ternal ceremonies and impeded at times free investigation. Erasmus 
went out of his way to interpolate in new editions of his works 
passages which could scarcely be interpreted other than as abetting 
Luther. The Annotations on the Neiv Testament in the edition of 
1519 introduced this passage: 

By how many human regulations has the sacrament of penitence and 
confession been impeded? The bolt of excommunication is ever in readi- 
ness. The sacred authority of the Roman pontiff is so abused by absolu- 
tions, dispensations, and the like that the godly cannot see it without a 
sigh. Aristotle is so in vogue that there is scarcely time in the churches 
to interpret the gospel. 

Again, the edition of the Ratio Theologiae in 1520 inserted this 

There are those who, not content with the observance of confession 
as a rite of the Church, superimpose the dogma that it was instituted 
not merely by the apostles but by Christ himself, nor will they suffer 
one sacrament to be added or subtracted from the number of the seven 
although they are perfectly willing to commit to one man the power to 
abolish purgatory. Some assert that the universal body of the Church 
has been contracted into a single Roman pontiff, who cannot err on 



faith and morals, thus ascribing to the pope more than he claims for 
himself, though they do not hesitate to dispute his judgment if he inter- 
feres with their purses or their prospects. Is not this to open the door to 
tyranny in case such power were wielded by an impious and pestilent 
man? The same may be said of vows, tithes, restitutions, remissions, and 
confessions by which the simple and superstitious are beguiled. 

During the years after the attack on indulgences and before the 
assault on the sacraments Erasmus and Luther appeared to con- 
temporaries to be preaching so nearly the same gospel that the first 
apology for Luther issued in the German tongue and composed in 
1519 by the Humanist secretary of Niirnberg, Lazarus Spengler, 
lauded him as the emancipator from rosaries, psalters, pilgrimages, 
holy water, confession, food and fast la\vs, the misuse of the ban, and 
the pomp of indulgences. Erasmus could have said every word of 

But there were differences; and the most fundamental was that 
Erasmus was after all a man of the Renaissance, desirous of bringing 
religion itself within the compass of man's understanding. He sought 
to do so, not like the scholastics by rearing an imposing edifice of 
rationally integrated theology, but rather by relegating to the judg- 
ment day the discussion of difficult points and couching Christian 
teaching in terms simple enough to be understood by the Aztecs, 
for whom his devotional tracts were translated. His patron saint 
was ever the penitent thief because he was saved with so little 

For another reason also Erasmus was diffident of unreserved sup- 
port to Luther. Erasmus was nostalgic for the vanishing unities of 
Europe. His dream was that Christian Humanism might serve as a 
check upon nationalism. In dedicating his commentary on the four 
Gospels to four sovereigns of the new national states Henry of 
England, Francis of France, Charles of Spain, and Ferdinand of 
Austria he voiced the hope that as their names were linked with the 
evangelists, so might their hearts be welded by the evangel. The 
threat of division and war implicit in the Reformation frightened him. 

Most decisive of all was his own inner need. That simple philosophy 



of Christ which he so vaunted did not allay ultimate doubts, and that 
very program of scholarship which he trusted to redeem the world 
was not immune to wistful scoffing. Why inflict upon oneself pallor, 
invalidism, sore eyes, and premature age in the making of books when 
perchance wisdom lies with babes? He who could so query the utility 
of his life's endeavor needed anchorageif not with Luther, then 
with Rome. 

Such a man simply could not give Luther unqualified endorsement 
without a violation of his own integrity. Erasmus chose his course 
with circumspection and held to it with more tenacity and courage 
than are usually credited to him. He would defend the man rather 
than the opinions. If he endorsed an idea, it would be as an idea and 
not as Luther's. He would champion the right of the man to speak 
and to be heard. Erasmus pretended even not to know w r hat Luther 
was saying. There had been no time, he affirmed, to read Luther's 
books, save perhaps a few lines of the Latin works, and of the German 
nothing at all, through ignorance of the languagethough two letters 
of Erasmus to Frederick the Wise in German are extant. After such 
disclaimers he w r ould then over and over again betray acquaintance 
even with the German works. But his point was sound enough. He 
was confining the defense to questions of civil and religious liberty. 
Luther was a man of irreproachable life. He was ready to submit 
to correction. He had asked for impartial judges. He should be ac- 
corded a hearing, and a real hearing, to determine whether his inter- 
pretation of Scripture was sound. The battle was for freedom of in- 
vestigation. Even if Luther was mistaken, he should be corrected 
fraternally and not by bolts from Rome. Erasmus was by conviction 
a neutral in an age intolerant of neutrality. 


Others among the Humanists went over to Luther unreservedly, 
among them Melanchthon, who as a Humanist scholar had been con- 
vinced that Luther correctly interpreted the apostle Paul. Melanchthon 
therefore became the colleague and the ally. Yet he continued to 
occupy a position at once so mediating and so ambiguous as to pro- 




roke questioning to this day whether he was the defender or the 
perverter of Luther's gospel. The fact that to the end Melanchthon 
preserved the unbroken friendship of Erasmus would not of itself 
be particularly significant were it not that he was ever ready to place 
upon Luther's teaching an alien nuance. After Luther's death Me- 
lanchthon translated the Augsburg Confession into Greek for the 
patriarch at Constantinople and in so doing actually transmuted 
Luther's teaching of justification by faith into the Greek concept 
of the deification of man through sacramental union with the incor- 
ruptible Christ. Humanism was a dubious ally. 

One wonders whether Luther was not better understood by that 
German Humanist who in his early years was the typical Renaissance 
figure. The artist Albrecht Diirer was a fine example of the uomo 
universale, experimenting with all techniques and seeking to compre- 
hend all mysteries in esoteric symbolism; given sometimes to a touch 
of levity, as in the "Madonna of the Parrot"; subject also to profound 
disquiet over the futility of all human endeavor. Those exuberant 
horsemen of the Renaissance reined up before the chasms of destiny. 
Their plight is poignantly displayed in Diirer's Melancolia. There sits 
a winged woman of high intelligence in torpid idleness amid all the 
tools and symbols of man's highest skills. Unused about her lie the 
compass of the draftsman, the scales of the chemist, the plane of the 
carpenter, the inkwell of the author; unused at her belt the keys of 
power, the purse of wealth; unused beside her the ladder of con- 
struction. The perfect sphere and the chiseled rhomboid inspire 
no new endeavor. Above her head the sands in the hourglass sink, 
and the calendar recalls that man's days are as the weaver's shuttle. 
The bell above is ready to toll. Yet in sable gloom she broods, because 
the issues of destiny strive in the celestial sphere. In the sky the rain- 
bow arches, sign of the covenant sworn by God to Noah, never to 
bring again the waters upon the earth; but within the rainbow glim- 
mers a comet, portent of impending disaster. Beside Melancolia, 
perched upon a millstone, sits a scribbling cherub alone active because 
insouciant of the forces at play. Is the point again, as with Erasmus, 
that wisdom lies with the simplicity of childhood, and man might 



better lay aside his skills until the gods have decided the issues of 
the day? 

What a parallel have we here in quite other terms to Luther's 
agonizing quest for the ultimate meaning of life! His language was 
different; his symbols were different; but the Renaissance could 
encompass a shift of symbols. When Diirer heard that man is saved 
by faith, he comprehended that the comet had been drawn into the 
rainbow, and desired with God's help to see Martin Luther and to 
engrave his portrait "as a lasting memorial of the Christian man who 
has helped me out of great anxiety." Thereafter Diirer's art abandoned 
the secular for the evangelical. From "scintillating splendor" he passed 
to a "forbidding yet strangely impassioned austerity." 


The second great movement to relate itself to the Reformation was 
German nationalism. The movement was itself inchoate in Luther's 
day because Germany was retarded in national unification as compared 
with Spain, France, and England. Germany had no centralized 
government. The Holy Roman Empire no more than approximated 
a German national state because it was at once too large, since any 
European prince was eligible to the highest office, and too small, 

MdrtinKS LtitbfTK?. 

fern Blw'clp pon Duttm* 

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because actually the Hapsburg dynasty was dominant. Germany was 
segmented into small and overlapping jurisdictions of princes and 
bishops. The free cities twinkled in the murky way of entangling 

alliances. The knights were a 
restive class seeking to arrest 
the waning of their power, and 
the peasants were likewise 
restive because desirous of a 
political role commensurate 
with their economic impor- 
tance. No government, and no 
class, was able to weld Ger- 
many into one. Dismembered 
and retarded, she was derided 
by the Italians and treated by 
the papacy as a private cow. 
Resentment against Rome was 
more intense than in countries 
where national governments curbed papal exploitation. 

The representatives of German nationalism who for several years 
in some measure aif ected Luther's career were Ulrich von Hutten and 
Franz von Sickingen. Hutten was himself both a knight and a 
Humanist, fond of parading both in armor and laurel. He illustrates 
again the diversities of Humanism, which could be international 
in Erasmus and national in him. Hutten did much to create the con- 
cept of German nationalism and to construct the picture of the ideal 
German, who should repel the enemies of the fatherland and erect a 
culture able to vie with the Italian. 

The first enemy to be repulsed was the Church, responsible so 
often for the division and the mulcting of Germany. Hutten wielded' 
the pen of the Humanist to blast the curia with the most virulent 
invective. In a tract called The Roman Trinity he catalogued in a 
crescendo of triplets all the sins of Rome: "Three things are sold in 
Rome: Christ, the priesthood, and women. Three things are hateful 
to Rome: a general council, the reformation of the church, and the 


opening of German eyes. Three ills I pray for Rome: pestilence, 
famine, and war. This be my trinity." 

The man who wrote this did not at first applaud Luther. In the 
opening stages of the skirmish with Eck, Hutten looked on the con- 
troversy as a squabble of monks and rejoiced that they would devour 
each other, but after the Leipzig debate he perceived that Luther's 
words had the ring of his own. Luther, too, resented the fleecing of 
Germany, Italian chicanery and superciliousness. Luther wished 
that St. Peter's might lie in ashes rather than that Germany should 
be despoiled. Hutten's picture of the romantic German could be 



enriched by Luther's concept of a mystical depth in the German 
soul exceeding that of other peoples. In 1516 Luther had discovered 
an anonymous manuscript emanating from the Friends of God and 
had published it under the title of A German Theology, declaring in 
the preface that he had learned from it more than from any writing 
save the Bible and the works of St. Augustine. These words imply 
no narrow nationalism, for St. Augustine was a Latin, but certainly 
Luther meant that the Germans should be rated above those by whom 
they were despised. The similarity between Hutten and Luther be- 
came all the more marked when Hutten grew evangelical and shifted 
his idiom from Athens to Galilee. 

The practical question for Hutten was how to implement his pro- 
gram for the emancipation of Germany. He looked first to Emperor 
Maximilian to curb the Church and consolidate the nation, but Maxi- 
milian died. Next Hutten hoped that Albert of Mainz, as the primate 

of Germany, might be induced to head a genuinely national church, 

< ' & ^ ' 

but Albert owed too much to Rome. 

One class alone in Germany responded to Hutten's pleas, and that 
was his own, the knights. Among them the most outstanding figure 
was Franz von Sickingen, who did so much to effect the imperial 
election by throwing his troops around Frankfurt. Sickingen was 
trying to obviate the extinction of his class by giving to Germany 
a system of justice after the manner of Robin Hood. He announced 
himself as the vindicator of the oppressed, and since his troops lived 
off the land, he was always seeking more oppressed to vindicate. 
Hutten saw a chance to enlist him for the vindication alike of Germany 
and Luther. During the warless winter Hutten established himself at 
Sickingen's castle called the Ebernburg, and there the poet laureate 
of Germany read to the illiterate swordsman from the German works 
of the Wittenberg prophet. Sickingen's foot and fist stamped assent, 
as he resolved to champion the poor and the sufferers for the 
gospel/ Popular pamphlets began to picture him as the vindicator 
of the peasants and of Martin Luther. In one of these manifestoes a 
peasant, having paid half of his fine to the Church, cannot produce 
the remainder. Sickingen advises him that he should not have paid 



the first half and cites the word of Christ to the disciples to take 
neither scrip nor purse. The peasant inquires where these words 
are to be found, and Sickingen replies, "In Matthew 10, also in 
Mark 6, and Luke 9 and 10." 

"Sir Knight," exclaims the astonished peasant, "how did you 
learn so much Scripture?" 

Sickingen answers that he learned from Luther's books as read 
to him by Hutten at the Ebernburg. 

The picture of Sickingen as the vindicator of the oppressed was not 
altogether fantastic. He did permit himself to be enlisted by Hutten 
to embark on a minor crusade for Humanism and the Reform. 
Reuchlin was thereby relieved of his fine, and fugitives for the gospel 
were harbored at the Ebernburg. Among them was that young 
Dominican, Martin Bucer, who had been so enthusiastic about Luther 
at the Heidelberg conference and now, having abandoned his own 
cowl, had fled to the gentlemen of the greenwood tree. Luther was 
made to know that he, too, would be welcome. What he replied we 
do not know, but we can infer his answer from the response to a 
similar overture on the part of a knight who informed him that, 
should the elector fail, one hundred knights could be mustered for his 
protection, so long as he was not confuted by irreproachable judges. 
To such offers Luther was noncommittal. "I do not despise them," 
he confided to Spalatin, "but I will not make use of them unless 
Christ, my protector, be willing, who has perhaps inspired the knight." 

But Luther was ready to utilize the letters he had received for 
diplomatic purposes, and instructed Spalatin if it was not improper 
to show them to Cardinal Riario. Let the curia know that if by their 
fulminations he was expelled from Saxony, he would not go to Bo- 
hemia but would find an asylum in Germany itself, where he might 
be more obnoxious than when under the surveillance of the prince 
and fully occupied with the duties of teaching. The mood of 
the letter was truculent. "For me the die is cast," he said. "I 
despise alike Roman fury and Roman favor. I will not be reconciled 
nor communicate with them. They damn and burn my books. Unless 



I am unable to get hold of a fire, I will publicly burn the whole canon 

In August, 1520, Luther intimated that because he had been 
delivered by these knights from the fear of men he would attack 
the papacy as Antichrist. But he had already done that; and while 
the assurance of protection undoubtedly heartened and emboldened 
him, the source of his courage was not to be found in a sense of 
immunity. One of his friends was fearful that Luther might retreat 
before the impending danger. He answered: 

You ask how I am getting on. I do not know. Satan was never so 
furious against me. I can say this, that I have never sought goods, honor, 
and glory, and I am not cast down by the hostility of the masses. In fact, 
the more they rage the more I am filled with the spirit. But, and this may 
surprise you, I am scarcely able to resist the smallest wave of inner 
despair, and that is why the least tremor of this kind expels the greatest 
of the other sort. You need not fear that I shall desert the standards. 

The most intrepid revolutionary is the one who has a fear greater 
than anything his opponents can inflict upon him. Luther, who had 
so trembled before the face of God, had no fear before the face 
of man. 

As the issue became more plainly drawn, it was clear that he would 
have no violence either for himself or for the gospel To Spalatin 
he wrote in January, 1521: 

You see what Hutten asks. I am not willing to fight for the gospel 
with bloodshed. In this sense I have written to him. The world is con- 
quered by the Word, and by the Word the Church is served and rebuilt. 
As Antichrist arose without the hand of man, so without the hand of 
man will he fall. 




ECAUSE Luther relied at long last on the arm 
of the Lord outstretched from heaven, he was 
not for that reason remiss in doing what might 
be done on earth. The delay of a year and a 
half in his trial gave him an opportunity to 
elaborate his views and to declare his findings. 
His theology, as we have seen, was already 
mature before the breach with Rome as to 
the essential nature of God and Christ and as to the way of salvation. 
On these points Luther had been brought to see that he was in some 
respects at variance with the Church. But he had not as yet thought 
through the practical implications of his theology for the theory of 
the Church, her rites, her composition, and her relation to society. 
Neither had he addressed himself to the problems of moral conduct. 
The interlude during which he was unmolested, from the conference 
with Cajetan in October of 1519 to the arrival of the papal bull in 
October of 1520, provided the opportunity. Luther availed himself 
feverishly' of the respite, not knowing of course how long it would 
last. During the summer of 1520 he delivered to the printer a sheaf of 
tracts which are still often referred to as his primary works: The Ser- 
mon on Good Works in May, The Papacy at Rome in June, and The 
Address to the German Nobility in August, The Babylonian Captivity 
in September, and The Freedom of the Christian Man in November. 



The latter three pertain more immediately to the controversy and 
will alone engage us for the moment. 

The most radical of them all in the eyes of contemporaries was the 
one dealing with the sacraments, entitled The Babylonian Captivity, 
with reference to the enslavement of the sacraments by the Church. 
This assault on Catholic teaching was more devastating than anything 
that had preceded; and when Erasmus read the tract, he ejaculated, 
"The breach is irreparable." The reason was that the pretensions of 
the Roman Catholic Church rest so completely upon the sacraments 
as the exclusive channels of grace and upon the prerogatives of the 
clergy, by whom the sacraments are exclusively administered. If sac- 
ramentalism is undercut, then sacerdotalism is bound to fall. Luther 
with one stroke reduced the number of the sacraments from seven to 
two. Confirmation, marriage, ordination, penance, and extreme unc- 
tion were eliminated. The Lord's Supper and baptism alone remained. 
The principle which dictated this reduction was that a sacrament 
must have been directly instituted by Christ and must be distinctively 

The removal of confirmation and extreme unction was not of tre- 
mendous import save that it diminished the control of the Church over 
youth and death. The elimination of penance was much more serious 
because this is the rite of the forgiveness of sins. Luther in this instance 
did not abolish it utterly. Of the three ingredients of penance he recog- 
nized of course the need for contrition and looked upon confession 
as useful, provided it was not institutionalized. The drastic point was 
with regard to absolution, which he said is only a declaration by man 
of what God has decreed in heaven and not a ratification by God of 
what man has ruled on earth. 

The repudiation of ordination as a sacrament demolished the caste 
system of clericalism and provided a sound basis for the priesthood of 
all believers, since according to Luther ordination is simply a rite of 
the Church by which a minister is installed to discharge a particular 
office. He receives no indelible character, is not exempt from the 
jurisdiction of the civil courts, and is not empowered by ordination 
to perform the other sacraments. At this point what the priest does any 



Christian may do, if commissioned by the congregation, because all 
Christians are priests. The fabrication of ordination as a sacrament 

was designed to engender implacable discord whereby the clergy and the 
laity should be separated farther than heaven and earth, to the incredible 
injury of baptismal grace and to the confusion of evangelical fellowship. 
This is the source of that detestable tyranny over the laity by the clergy 
who, relying on the external anointing of their hands, the tonsure and the 
vestments, not only exalt themselves above lay Christians, anointed by 
the Holy Spirit, but even regard them as dogs, unworthy to be included 
with them in the Church. . . . Here Christian brotherhood has expired 
and shepherds have become wolves. All of us who have been baptized 
are priests without distinction, but those whom we call priests are min- 
isters, chosen from among us that they should do all things in our name 
and their priesthood is nothing but a ministry. The sacrament of ordina- 
tion, therefore, can be nothing other than a certain rite of choosing a 
preacher in the Church. 

But Luther's rejection of the five sacraments might even have been 
tolerated had it not been for the radical transformation which he ef- 
fected in the two which he retained. From his view of baptism he 
was to infer a repudiation of monasticism on the ground that it is not 
a second baptism, and no vow should ever be taken beyond the bap- 
tismal vow. 

Most serious of all was Luther's reduction of the mass to the Lord's 
Supper. The mass is central for the entire Roman Catholic system be- 
cause the mass is believed to be a repetition of the Incarnation and 
the Crucifixion. When the bread and wine are transubstantiated, God 
again becomes flesh and Christ again dies upon the altar. This wonder 
can be performed only by priests empowered through ordination. In- 
asmuch as this means of grace is administered exclusively by their 
hands, they occupy a unique place within the Church; and because 
the Church is the custodian of the body of Christ, she occupies a 
unique place in society. 

Luther did not attack the mass in order to undermine the priests. 
His concerns were always primarily religious and only incidentally ec- 
clesiastical or sociological. His first insistence was that the sacrament 



of the mass must be not magical but mystical, not the performance 
of a rite but the experience of a presence. This point was one of 
several discussed with Cajetan at the interview. The cardinal com- 
plained of Luther's view that the efficacy of the sacrament depends 
upon the faith of the recipient. The teaching of the Church is that 
the sacraments cannot be impaired by any human weakness, be it the 
unworthiness of the performer or the indifference of the receiver. 
The sacrament operates by virtue of a power within itself ex opere 
operate. In Luther's eyes such a view made the sacrament mechanical 
and magical. He, too, had no mind to subject it to human frailty and 
would not concede that he had done so by positing the necessity of 
faith, since faith is itself a gift of God, but this faith is given by God 
when, where, and to whom he will and even without the sacrament 
is efficacious; whereas the reverse is not true, that the sacrament is of 
efficacy without faith. "I may be wrong on indulgences," declared 
Luther, "but as to the need for faith in the sacraments I will die before 
I will recant." This insistence upon faith diminished the role of the 
priest who may place a wafer in the mouth but cannot engender faith 
in the heart. 

The second point made by Luther was that the priest is not in a 
position to do that which the Church claims in the celebration of the 
mass. He does not "make God," and he does not "sacrifice Christ." 
The simplest way of negating this view would have been to say that 
God is not present and Christ is not sacrificed, but Luther was ready 
to affirm only the latter. Christ is not sacrificed because his sacrifice 
was made once and for all upon the cross, but God is present in the 
elements because Christ, being God, declared, "This is my body." 
The repetition of these words by the priest, however, does not trans- 
form the bread and wine into the body and blood of God, as the 
Catholic Church holds. The view called transubstantiation was that 
the elements retain their accidents of shape, taste, color, and so on, but 
lose their substance, for which is substituted the substance of God. 
Luther rejected this position less on rational than on biblical grounds. 
Both Erasmus and Melanchthon before him had pointed out that 
the concept of substance is not biblical but a scholastic sophistication. 



For that reason Luther was averse to its use at all, and his own view 
should not be called consubstantiation. The sacrament for him was not 
a chunk of God fallen like a meteorite from heaven. God does not 
need to fall from heaven because he is everywhere present throughout 
his creation as a sustaining and animating force, and Christ as God is 
likewise universal, but his presence is hid from human eyes. For that 
reason God has chosen to declare himself unto mankind at three loci 
of revelation. The first is Christ, in whom the Word was made flesh. 
The second is Scripture, where the Word uttered is recorded. The 
third is the sacrament, in which the Word is manifest in food and 
drink. The sacrament does not conjure up God as the witch of 
Endor but reveals him where he is. 

To the degree that the powers of the priest were diminished, his 
prerogatives also were curtailed. In Catholic practice one of the dis- 
tinctions between the clergy and the laity is that only the priest 
drinks the wine at the mass. The restriction arose out of the fear that 
the laity in clumsiness might spill some of the blood of God. Luther 
felt no less reverence for the sacrament, but he would not safeguard 
it at the expense of a caste system within the Church. Despite the risk, 
the cup should be given to all believers. This pronouncement in his 
day had an uncommon ring of radicalism because the chalice for the 
laity was the cry of the Bohemian Hussites. They justified their prac- 
tice on the ground that Christ said, "Drink ye all of it." Catholic in- 
terpreters explain these words as addresse^ only to the apostles, who 
were all priests. Luther agreed, but retorted that all believers are 


Such a view was fraught with far-reaching consequences for the 
theory of the Church, and Luther's own view of the Church was deriv- 
ative from his theory of the sacraments. His deductions, however, 
were not clear-cut in this area, because his view of the Lord's Supper 
pointed in one direction and his view of baptism in another. That is 
why he could be at once to a degree the / father of the congregational- 



ism of the Anabaptists and of the territorial church of the later Lu- 

His view of the Lord's Supper made for the gathered church of 
convinced believers only, because he declared that the sacrament de- 
pends for its efficacy upon the faith of the recipient. That must of 
necessity make it highly individual because faith is individual. Every 
soul, insisted Luther, stands in naked confrontation before its Maker. 
No one can die in the place of another; everyone must wrestle with 
the pangs of death for himself alone. 'Then I shall not be with you, 
nor you with me. Everyone must answer for himself." Similarly, "The 
mass is a divine promise w r hich can help no one, be applied for no one, 
intercede for no one, and be communicated to none save him only who 
believes with a faith of his own. Who can accept or apply for another 
the promise of God which requires faith of each individually?" 

Here we are introduced to the very core of Luther's individualism. 
It is not the individualism of the Renaissance, seeking the fulfillment 
of the individual's capacities; it is not the individualism of the late 
scholastics, who on metaphysical grounds declared that reality consists 
only of individuals, and that aggregates like Church and state are not 
entities but simply the sum of their components. Luther was not con- 
cerned to philosophize about the structure of Church and state; his 
insistence was simply that every man must answer for himself to God. 
That was the extent of his individualism. The faith requisite for the 
sacrament must be one's own. From such a theory the obvious in- 
ference is that the Church should consist only of those possessed of a 
warm personal faith; and since the number of such persons is never 
large, the Church would have to be a comparatively small conventicle. 
Luther not infrequently spoke precisely as if this were his meaning. 
Especially in his earlier lectures he had delineated a view of the Church 
as a remnant because the elect are few. This must be so, he held, be- 
cause the Word of God goes counter to all the desires of the natural 
man, abasing pride, crushing arrogance, and leaving all human pre- 
tensions in dust and ashes. Such a work is unpalatable, and few will 
receive it. Those who do will be stones rejected by the builders. De- 
rision and persecution will be their lot. Every Abel is bound to have 



his Cain, and every Christ his Caiaphas. Therefore the true Church 
will be despised and rejected of men and will lie hidden in the midst 
of the world. These words of Luther might readily issue in the sub- 
stitution for the Catholic monastery of the segregated Protestant com- 

But Luther was not willing to take this road because the sacrament 
of baptism pointed for him in another direction. He could readily 
enough have accommodated baptism to the preceding view, had he 
been willing, like the Anabaptists, to regard baptism as the outward 
sign of an inner experience of regeneration appropriate only to adults 
and not to infants. But this he would not do. Luther stood with the 
Catholic Church on the score of infant baptism because children must 
be snatched at birth from the power of Satan. But what then becomes 
of his formula that the efficacy of the sacrament depends upon the 
faith of the recipient? He strove hard to retain it by the figment of an 
implicit faith in the baby comparable to the faith of a man in sleep. 
But again Luther would shift from the faith of the child to the faith 
of the sponsor by which the infant is undergirded. Birth for him was 
not so isolated as death. One cannot die for another, but one can in 
a sense be initiated for another into a Christian community. For that 
reason baptism rather than the Lord's Supper is the sacrament which 
links the Church to society. It is the sociological sacrament. For the 
medieval community every child outside the ghetto was by birth a 
citizen and by baptism a Christian. Regardless of personal conviction 
the same persons constituted the state and the Church. An alliance of 
the two institutions was thus natural. Here was a basis for a Christian 
society. The greatness and the tragedy of Luther was that he could 
never relinquish either the individualism of the eucharistic cup or 
the corporateness of the baptismal font. He would have been a troubled 
spirit in a tranquil age. 


But his age was not tranquil. Rome had not forgotten him. The 
lifting of the pressure was merely opportunist; and as the time ap- 
proached when the Most Catholic Emperor would come from Spaia 



to Germany, the papacy was prepared to resume the prosecution. 
Even before the publication of the assault on the sacraments, which 
in the eyes of Erasmus made the breach irreparable, Luther had said 
quite enough to warrant drastic action. The assertions of the indul- 
gence controversy had been augmented by the more devastating at- 
tack upon the divine origin and rule of the papacy at the Leipzig de- 
bate. His offense was so glaring that a member of the curia deprecated 
waiting until the arrival of the emperor. Then came Eck to Rome, 
armed not only with the notes on Leipzig but also with condemna- 
tions of Luther's teaching by the universities of Cologne and Louvain. 
When Erfurt had declined and Paris had failed to report on the dis- 
putation between Luther and Eck, these trvvo other universities stepped 
unsolicited into the breach. The judgment of Cologne, dominated by 
the Dominicans, was more severe. Louvain was slightly tinctured with 
Erasmianism. Both were agreed in condemning Luther's views on 
human depravity, penance, purgatory, and indulgences. Louvain was 
silent with regard to the attack on the papacy, whereas Cologne com- 
plained of heretical notions as to the primacy and derogation from 
the power of the keys. 

Luther retorted that neither cited against him any proof from the 

Why do we not abolish the gospel and turn instead to them? Strange 
that handworkers give sounder judgments than theologians! How seri- 
ously should one take those who condemned Reuchlin? If they burn 
my books, I will repeat what I have said. In this I am so bold that for it 
I will suffer death. When Christ was filled with scorn against the Phari- 
sees and Paul was outraged by the blindness of the Athenians, what, I 
beg you, shall I do? 

Nothing further of the prosecution is on record until March, when 
the attempt was resumed to suppress Luther quietly through the Au- 
gustinian order. The general wrote to Staupitz: 

The order, never previously suspected of heresy, is becoming odious. 
We beg you in the bonds of love to do your utmost to restrain Luther 



from speaking against the Holy Roman Church and her indulgences. 
Urge him to stop writing. Let him save our order from infamy. 

Staupitz extricated himself by resigning as vicar. 

Another approach was made through Frederick the Wise. Cardinal 
Riario, lately pardoned for his complicity in an attempt on the life 
of the pope, wrote to Frederick: 

Most illustrious noble lord and brother, when I recall the splendor of 
your house and the devotion ever displayed by your progenitors and 
yourself toward the Holy See, I think it the part of friendship to write 
to you concerning the common good of Christendom and the everlast- 
ing honor of yourself. I am sure you are not ignorant of the rancor, 
contempt, and license with which Martin Luther rails against the Roman 
pontiff and the whole curia. Wherefore I exhort you, bring this man 
to reject his error. You can if you will; with just one little pebble the 
puny David killed the mighty Goliath. 

Frederick replied that the case had been referred to his most dear 
friend, the Archbishop of Trier, Elector of the Holy Roman Em- 
pire, Richard of Greiff enklau. 

In May dallying ended. Four meetings of the consistory were held, 
on May 21, 23, 26, and June 1. The pope on the evening of the twen- 
ty-second retired to his hunting lodge at Magliana, a soliti piaceri. 
The cardinals, the canonists, and the theologians carried on. There 
may have been some forty in attendance. Eck was the only German. 
The three great monastic orders were represented, the Dominicans, 
the Franciscans, and the Augustinians. No longer could one speak of 
a monk's squabble. Luther's own general was there, not to mention 
his old opponents Prierias and Cajetan. Three questions were to be 
settled: what to do with Luther's opinions, what to do with his 
books, and what to do with his person. Lively differences of opinion 
ensued. Some in the first session questioned the expediency of issuing 
a bull at all in view of the exacerbated state of Germany. The theo- 
logians were for condemning Luther outright. The canonists con- 
tended that he should be given a hearing like Adam, for even though 
God knew him to be guilty he gave him an opportunity to defend him- 



self when he said, "Where art them?" A compromise was reached 
whereby Luther was not to have a hearing but should be given sixty 
days in which to make his submission, 

With regard to his teaching there were debates, though by whom 
and about what can only be surmised. Reports at second or third 
hand suggest the differences within the consistory. The Italian 
Cardinal Accolti is said to have called Tetzel a "porcaccio" and to 
have given Prierias a rabbuffo for composing in three days a reply 
to Luther which might better have taken three months. Cajetan is 
reported to have sniffed on Eck's arrival in Rome, "Who let in that 
beast?" Spanish Cardinal Carvajal, a conciliarist, is said to have op- 
posed vehemently the action against Luther. In the end unanimity 
was attained for the condemnation of forty-one articles. The pre- 
vious strictures df Louvain and Cologne were combined and amplified. 


Anyone acquainted with Luther's mature position will feel that 
the bull was exceedingly sparse in its reproof. Luther's views on the 
mass were condemned only at the point of the cup to the laity. No 
other of the seven sacraments received notice, save penance. There 
was nothing about monastic vows, only a disavowal of Luther's de- 
sire that princes and prelates might suppress the sacks of the mendi- 
cants. There was nothing about the priesthood of all believersf The 
articles centered on Luther's disparagement of human capacity even 
after baptism, on his derogation from the power of the pope to bind 
and loose penalties and sins, from the power of the pope and councils 
to declare doctrine, from the primacy of the pope and of the Roman 
Church. At one point the condemnation of Luther conflicted with 
the recent pronouncement of the pope on indulgences. Luther was 
reproved for reserving the remission of penalties imposed by divine 
justice to God alone, whereas the pope himself had just declared that 
in such cases the treasury of merits could be applied only by way of 
intercession, not of jurisdiction. The charge of Bohemianism against 
Luther had plainly lodged, because he was condemned on the score of 
introducing certain of the articles of John Hus. jpTwo characteristical- 


0ulfo contra erroies 


i fequaciimu 



ly Erasmian tenets received strictures, that to burn heretics is against 
the will of the Spirit and that war against the Turks is resistance to 
God's visitation. The forty-one articles were not pronounced uni- 
formly heretical but were condemned as "heretical, or scandalous, or 
false, or offensive to pious ears, or seductive of simple minds, or re- 
pugnant to Catholic truth, respectively." Some suspected at the time 
that this formula was adopted because the consistory was not able to 
make up its mind which were which, and therefore, like the triumvirs, 
proscribed the enemies of each though they might be friends of 
the rest. One may doubt, however, whether this was the case, be- 
cause the formula was stereotyped and had been used in the condem- 
nation of John Hus. 

The completed bull was presented to the pope for a preface and 
conclusion. In keeping with the surroundings of his hunting lodge at 
Magliana he commenced: 

Arise, O Lord, and judge thy cause. A wild boar has invaded thy 
vineyard. Arise, O Peter, and consider the case of the Holy Roman 
Church, the mother of all churches, consecrated by thy blood. Arise, O 
Paul, who by thy teaching and death hast and dost illumine the Church. 
Arise, all ye saints, and the whole universal Church, whose interpre- 
tation of Scripture has been assailed. We can scarcely express our grief 
over the ancient heresies which have been revived in Germany. We 
are the more downcast because she was always in the forefront of 
the war on heresy. Our pastoral office can no longer tolerate the pestif- 
erous virus of the following forty-one errors. [They are enumerated.] 
We can no longer suffer the serpent to creep through the field of the 
Lord. The books of Martin Luther which contain these errors are to be 
examined and burned. As for Martin himself, good God, what office of 
paternal love have we omitted in order to recall him from his errors? 
Have we not offered him a safe conduct and money for the journey? 
[Such an offer never reached Luther.] And he has had the temerity to 
appeal to a future council although our predecessors, Pius II and Julius II, 
subjected such appeals to the penalties of heresy. Now therefore we give 
Martin sixty days in which to submit, dating from the time of the pub- 
lication of this bull in his district. Anyone who presumes to infringe our 
excommunication and anathema will stand under the wrath of Almighty 
God and of the apostles Peter and Paul. 

Dated on the 15th day of June, 1520. 


This bull is known by its opening words, which are Exsurge Domine. 
A few weeks later the pope wrote to Frederick the Wise: 

Beloved son, we rejoice that you have never shown any favor to that 
son of iniquity, Martin Luther. We do not know whether to credit this 
the more to your sagacity or to your piety. This Luther favors the 
Bohemians and the Turks, deplores the punishment of heretics, spurns 
the writings of the holy doctors, the decrees of the ecumenical councils, 
and the ordinances of the Roman pontiffs, and gives credence to the 
opinions of none save himself alone, which no heretic before ever pre- 
sumed to do. We cannot suffer the scabby sheep longer to infect the 
flock. Wherefore we have summoned a conclave of venerable brethren. 
The Holy Spirit also was present, for in such cases he is never absent 
from our Holy See. We have composed a bull, sealed with lead, in which 
out of the innumerable errors of this man we have selected those in which 
he perverts the faith, seduces the simple, and relaxes the bonds of obedi- 
ence, continence, and humility. The abuses which he has vaunted against 
our Holy See we leave to God. We exhort you to induce him to return 
to sanity and receive our clemency. If he persists in his madness, take 
him captive. 

Given under the seal of the Fisherman's ring on the 8th 
of July, 1520, and in the eighth year of our pontificate. 


The papal bull took three months to find Luther, but there were 
early rumors that it was on the way. Hutten wrote to him on 
June 4, 1520: 

You are said to be under excommunication. If it be true, how mighty 
you are! In you the words of the psalm are fulfilled, "They have con- 
demned innocent blood, but the Lord our God will render to them their 
iniquity and destroy them in their malice." This is our hope; be this our 
faith. There are plots against me also. If they use force, they will be met 
with force. I wish they would condemn me. Stand firm. Do not waver. 
But why should I admonish you? I will stand by, whatever come. Let us 
vindicate the common liberty. Let us liberate the oppressed fatherland. 
God will be on our side; and if God is with us, who can be against us? 

This was the time when renewed offers came from Sickingen and 
from a hundred knights besides. Luther was not unmoved, yet he 



scarcely knew whether to rely on the arm of man or solely on the 
Lord. During that summer of 1520, when the papal bull was seeking 
him throughout Germany, his mood fluctuated between the incen- 
diary and the apocalyptic. In one unguarded outburst he incited to 
violence. A new attack by Prierias lashed Luther to rage. In a printed 
reply he declared: 

It seems to me that if the Romanists are so mad the only remedy re- 
maining is for the emperor, the kings, and princes to gird themselves with 
force of arms to attack these pests of all the world and fight them, not 
with words, but with steel. If we punish thieves with the yoke, high- 
waymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather 
assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the 
whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church 
of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands 
in their blood? 

Luther explained afterwards that he really did not mean what the 
words imply. 

I wrote "/f we burn heretics, why do we not rather attack the pope and 
his followers with the sword and wash our hands in their blood?" Since 
I do not approve of burning heretics nor of killing any Christian this I 
well know does not accord with the gospel I have shown what they 
deserve if heretics deserve fire* There is no need to attack you with the 

Despite this disclaimer Luther was never suffered to forget his in- 
cendiary blast. It was quoted against him in the Edict of the Diet of 

The disavowal was genuine. His prevailing mood was expressed 
in a letter of October to a minister who was prompted to leave his 
post. Luther wrote: 

Our warfare is not with flesh and blood, but against spiritual wicked- 
ness in the heavenly places, against the world rulers of this darkness. Let 
us then stand firm and heed the trumpet of the Lord. Satan is fighting, 
not against us, but against Christ in us. We fight the battles of the Lord. 
Be strong therefore. If God is for us, who can be against us? 


You are dismayed because Eck is publishing a most severe bull against 
Luther, his books, and his followers. Whatever may happen, I am not 
moved, because nothing can happen save in accord with the will of him 
who sits upon the heaven directing all* Let not your hearts be troubled. 
Your Father knows your need before you ask him. Not a leaf from a 
tree falls to the ground without his knowledge. How much less can any 
of us fall unless it be his will. 

If you have the spirit, do not leave your post, lest another receive 
your crown. It is but a little thing that we should die with the Lord, who 
in our flesh laid down his life for us. We shall rise with him and abide 
with him in eternity. See then that you do not despise your holy calling* 
He will come, he will not tarry, who will deliver us from every ill. Fare 
well in the Lord Jesus, who comforts and sustains mind and spirit. Amen. 



T ONE point Luther was perfectly clear. 
Whoever helped or did not help him, he would 
make his testimony. 

"For me the die is cast. I despise alike 
Roman fury and Roman favor. I will not be 
reconciled or communicate with them. Let 
them damn and burn my books. I for my 
part, unless I cannot find a fire, will publicly 

damn and burn the whole canon law." 
Neither did Luther neglect his defense. He had appealed in vain to 

the pope and in vain to a council. There was one more recourse, the 

appeal to the emperor. During the month of August Luther addressed 

Charles V in these words: 

It is not presumptuous that one who through evangelical truth has 
ascended the throne of Divine Majesty should approach the throne of an 
earthly prince, nor is it unseemly that an earthly prince, who is the image 
of the Heavenly, should stoop to raise up the poor from the dust. Conse- 
quently, unworthy and poor though I be, I prostrate myself before your 
Imperial Majesty. I have published books which have alienated many, 
but I have done so because driven by others, for I would prefer nothing 
more than to remain in obscurity* For three years I have sought peace 
in vain. I have now but one recourse. I appeal to Caesar. I have no desire 
to be defended if I am found to be impious or heretical. One thing I ask, 
that neither truth nor error be condemned unheard and unrefuted. 

Luther asked of Caesar, however, more than that he should hear a 
man. He was also to vindicate a cause. The Church was desperately in 


need of reform, and the initiative would have to come, as Hutten 
contended, from the civil power. A mighty program of reformation 
was delineated by Luther in the Address to the Germm Nobility. The 
term "nobility" was broadly used to cover the ruling class in Germany, 
from the emperor down. But by what right, the modern reader 
may well inquire, might Luther call upon them to reform the Church? 
The question has more than an antiquarian interest, because some 
contend that in this tract Luther broke with his earlier view of the 
Church as a persecuted remnant and laid instead the basis for a 
church allied with and subservient to the state. Luther adduced three 
grounds for his appeal. The first was simply that the magistrate was 
the magistrate, ordained of God to punish evildoers. All that Luther 
demanded of the magistrate as magistrate was that he should hale the 
clergy before the civil courts, protect citizens against ecclesiastical 
extortion, and vindicate the state in the exercise of civil functions 
from clerical interference. This was the sense in which Luther often 
asserted that no one in a thousand years had so championed the 
civil state as he. The theocratic pretensions of the Church were to 
be repulsed. 

The Address to the German Nobility, however, goes far beyond a 
mere circumscribing of the Church to her proper sphere. Luther was 
much less concerned for the emancipation of the state than for the puri- 
fication of the Church. The stripping away of temporal power and 
inordinate wealth was designed to emancipate the Church from world- 
ly cares that she might better perform her spiritual functions. The 
basis of the right of the magistrate to undertake this reform is stated 
in Luther's second reason, namely, "The temporal authorities are bap- 
tized with the same baptism as we." This is the language of the Chris- 
tian society, built upon the sociological sacrament administered to 
every babe born into the community. In such a society, Church and 
state are mutually responsible for the support and correction of each 

In a third passage Luther gave the additional ground, that the magis- 
trates were fellow Christians sharing in the priesthood of all believers, 


3n torn CtoffHirfinro 



from which some modern historians have inferred that Luther would 
concede to the magistrate the role of Church reformer only if he were 
himself a convinced Christian, and then only in an emergency. But no 
such qualification is stated in this tract. The priesthood of all believers 
itself was made to rest upon the lower grade of faith implicit in the 
baptized infant. Luther's whole attitude to the reformatory role of 
the magistrate is essentially medieval. What sets it off from so many 
other attempts at the redress of grievances is its deeply religious tone. 
The complaints of Germany were combined with the reform of the 
Church, and the civil power itself was directed to rely less on the 
arm of flesh than upon the hand of the Lord. 

The program began with religious premises. Three walls of Rome 
must tumble down like the walls of Jericho. The first was that the 
spiritual power is above the temporal. This claim Luther countered 
with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. "We are all alike 
Christians and have baptism, faith, the Spirit, and all things alike. If a 
priest is killed, a land is laid under an interdict. Why not in the case of 
a peasant? Whence comes this great distinction between those who are 
called Christians? " The second wall was that the pope alone might in- 
terpret Scripture. This assertion was met, not so much by the vindica- 
tion of the rights of Humanist scholarship against papal incompetence, 
as by the claims of lay Christianity to understand the niind of Christ. 
"Balaam's ass was wiser than the prophet himself. If God then spoke 
by an ass against a prophet, why should he not be able even now to 
speak by a righteous man against the pope?" The third wall was that 
the pope alone could call a council. Here again the priesthood of all 
believers gave the right to anyone in an emergency, but peculiarly to 
the civil power because of its strategic position. 

Then follow all the proposals for the reforms to be instituted by a 
council. The papacy should return to apostolic simplicity, with no 
more triple crown and no toe kissing. The pope should not receive the 
sacrament seated, proffered to him by a kneeling cardinal through a 
golden reed, but should stand up like any other "stinking sinner.'* The 
cardinals should be reduced in number. The temporal possessions and 



claims of the Church should be abandoned that the pope might devote 
himself only to spiritual concerns. The income of the Church should 
be curtailed no more annates, fees, indulgences, golden years, res- 
ervations, crusading taxes, and all the rest of the tricks by which the 
"drunken Germans" were despoiled. Litigation in Church courts in- 
volving Germans should be tried in Germany under a German 
primate. This suggestion looked in the direction of a national church. 
For Bohemia it was definitely recommended. 

The proposals with regard to monasticism and clerical marriage 
went beyond anything Luther had said previously. The mendicants 
should be relieved of hearing confession and preaching. The number 
of orders should be reduced, and there should be no irrevocable vows. 
The clergy should be permitted to marry because they need house- 
keepers, and to place man and woman together under such circum- 
stances is like setting straw beside fire and expecting it not to bum. 

Miscellaneous recommendations called for the reduction of Church 
festivals and a curb on pilgrimages. Saints should be left to canonize 
themselves. The state should inaugurate legal reform and undertake 
sumptuary legislation. This program was comprehensive and for the 
most part would evoke hearty applause in Germany. 

Underlying it all was a deep indignation against the corruption of 
the Church. Again and again the pope was shamed by a comparison 
with Christ. This theme went back through Hus to Wyclif. An il- 
lustrated work in Bohemian on the disparity of Christ and the pope 
was in the library of Frederick the Wise. A similar work was later 
issued in Wittenberg with annotations by Melanchthon and woodcuts 
by Cranach. The idea was already present in the Address to the Ger- 
man Nobility, where reference was made to Christ on foot, the pope 
in a palanquin with a retinue of three or four thousand mule drivers; 
Christ washing the disciples* feet, the pope having his feet kissed; 
Christ enjoining keeping faith even with an enemy, the pope declaring 
that no faith is to be kept with him who has no faith, and that prom- 
ises to heretics are not binding. Still worse, constraint against them 
is employed. "But heretics should be vanquished with books, not with 



burnings. O Christ my Lord, look down. Let the day of thy judgment 
break and destroy the devil's nest at Rome! " 

On the left Christ is washing the disciples' feet. On the right 
Antichrist, the pope, is having his toes kissed by monarch*. 


In the meantime the bull Exsurge Domine was being executed at 
Rome. Luther's books were burned in the Piazza Navona. The bull 
was printed, notarized, and sealed for wider dissemination. The task 
of its publication in the north was committed to two men who were 
named papal nuncios and special inquisitors for the purpose. One of 
them was John Eck. The other, Jerome Aleander, was a distinguished 
Humanist, master of three languages Latin, Greek, and Hebrew 
a former rector of the University of Paris. He had some acquaintance 
with German affairs through his youth in the Low Countries. His 
irregularities in private morals gave no offense in the days of the un- 
reformed papacy. The field was divided between the two men, partly 
along geographical lines. Eck was to take the east, Franconia and 
Bavaria. Aleander should cover the Low Countries and the Rhine. 



There was a further division of function in that Aleander should ad- 
dress himself to the emperor and his court and to the high magnates, 
lay and clerical, whereas Eck should go rather to the bishops and the 
universities. The two men were enjoined to act in perfect accord. 
Aleander's instructions told him first of all to deliver the bull "To our 
beloved son Charles, Holy Roman Emperor and Catholic King of 
Spain." At that moment all parties were looking to Charles. He was 
young and had not yet declared himself. The pope expected him to 
follow the example of his grandmother, Isabella the Catholic. The 
Germans saw in him the heir of his grandfather, Maximilian the Ger- 
man. Aleander was advised in case Luther should demand a hearing 
before the court of the emperor to reply that the case was being 
handled solely by Rome. This is the first suggestion that Luther might 
ask to have his case referred to a secular tribunal. The secretary who 
composed this memorandum was singularly clairvoyant, because the 
instructions were drafted prior to Luther's appeal to Caesar. Eck re- 
ceived a secret commission, unknown to Aleander, permitting the in- 
clusion in the condemnation of more names than Luther's, according 
to discretion. 

Neither man relished his assignment, which each undertook at the 
risk of his life. Eck made his task vastly more difficult by adding names 
at his indiscretion, six of them: three from Wittenberg, including 
Carlstadt; and three from Niirnberg, including Spengler and Pirk- 
heimer. He could not have chosen a more inopportune moment to at- 
tack the leaders of German Humanism, who were never more united. 
Aleander likewise in the Netherlands was confronted with many Lu- 
ther sympathizers. There was Erasmus, who said, "The inclemency of 
this bull ill comports with the moderation of Leo." And again, "Papal 
bulls are weighty, but scholars attach more weight to books with good 
arguments drawn from the testimony of divine Scripture, which does 
not coerce but instructs." In Antwerp the Marrani, Spaniards and 
Portuguese of Jewish extraction, were printing Luther in Spanish. Ger- 
man merchants were disseminating his ideas. Albrecht Diirer was exe- 
cuting commissions in Antwerp while looking to Luther and Erasmus 
to purify the Church. In the Rhine valley there were rumors that 



Sickingen might vindicate Luther, as he had done Reuchlin, by force 
of arms. 

Eck met with the most unexpected opposition. Duke George held 
back on the ground that his locality had not been specifically named. 
Frederick the Wise was expected to obstruct, but he did so in the most 
disconcerting way by reporting that he had learned from Aleander 
that Eck had no authorization to include anyone save Luther. Eck then 
was forced to produce his secret instructions. On one ground or an- 
other the very bishops held back, some of them for six months, before 
publishing the bull. The University of Vienna declined to act with- 
out the bishop, and the University of Wittenberg protested the im- 
propriety of entrusting the publication of the bull to a party in the 
dispute. "The goat should not be permitted to be a gardener, nor 
the wolf a shepherd, nor John Eck a papal nuncio." Not only the 
University of Wittenberg but even the Duke of Bavaria expressed fear 
that publication of the bull would produce disorder. There was some 
reason for such concern. At Leipzig, Eck had to hide for his life in a 
cloister. At Erfurt, when he had the bull reprinted, the students dubbed 
it a "bulloon" and threw all the copies in the river to see whether they 
would float. At Torgau it was torn down and besmeared. The only 
easy successes were with the bishops of Brandenburg, Meissen, and 
Merseburg, who permitted the publication of the bull on September 
21, 25, and 29 respectively. Eck, in honor of this triumph, erected a 
votive tablet in the church at Ingolstadt: "]ohn Eck, professor or- 
dmarws of theology and university chancellor, papal nuncio and apos- 
tolic protonotary, having published in accord with the command of 
Leo X the bull against Lutheran doctrine in Saxony and Meissen, 
erects this tablet in gratitude that he has returned home alive." 

Aleander found his task complicated because the bull leaked to 
Germany before its publication, and in a form discrepant from his own. 
He was well received, however, at the imperial court at Antwerp, and 
His Majesty promised to stake his life on the protection of the Church 
and the honor of the pope and the Holy See. He was perf ecdy ready 
to execute the bull in his hereditary domains, and Aleander was able 
therefore to institute an auto-da-fe of Lutheran books at Louvain on 



October 8. When the fire was started, however, students threw in 
works of scholastic theology and a medieval handbook for preachers 
entitled Sleep Well. A similar burning took place at Liege on the seven- 
teenth. The mendicants and the 
conservatives of the university 
faculty at Louvain were incited 
to make life intolerable for 
Erasmus. The Counter Refor- 
mation, aided by the imperial 
arm, was already begun. 

But in the Rhineland it was 
different. The emperor there 
ruled only by virtue of his elec- 
tion. When at Cologne on 
November 12 Aleander tried to 
have a bonfire, though the 
archbishop had given his con- 
sent, the executioner refused to 
proceed without an express im- 
perial mandate. The archbishop 
asserted his authority, and the 
books were burned. At Mainz 
the opposition was more violent. The executioner, before applying 
the torch, turned to the assembled onlookers and inquired whether 
these books had been legally condemned. When with one voice the 
throng boomed back "No! " the executioner stepped down and refused 
to act. Aleander appealed to Albert, the archbishop, and secured 
from him authorization to destroy a few books on the following 
day. The order was carried out on the twenty-ninth of November, 
not by the public executioner, but by a gravedigger, and with no 
witnesses save a few women who had brought their geese to market. 
Aleander was pelted with stones, and he declared that except for 
the intervention of the abbot he would not have come off with his 
life. His word might be doubted had we no other evidence, for he 
magnified his danger to enhance his achievements. 




But in this instance there is independent corroboration. Ulrich 
von Hutten came out in verse with an invective both in Latin and 
in German: 

O God, Luther's books they burn. 
Thy godly truth is slain in turn. 
Pardon in advance is sold, 
And heaven marketed for gold. 
The German people is bled white 
And is not asked to be contrite. 
To Martin Luther wrong is done 
O God, be thou our champion. 
My goods for him I will not spare, 
My Hfe, my blood for him I dare. 

On October 10 the bull reached Luther. The following day he 
commented to Spalatin: 

This bull condemns Christ himself. It summons me not to an audience 
but to a recantation. I am going to act on the assumption that it is spurious, 
though I think it is genuine. Would that Charles were a man and would 
fight for Christ against these Satans. But I am not afraid. God's will be 
done. I do not know what the prince should do unless to dissemble. I am 
sending you a copy of the bull that you may see the Roman monster. The 
faith and the Church are at stake. I rejoice to suffer in so noble a cause. 
I am not worthy of so holy a trial. I feel much freer now that I am certain 
the pope is Antichrist. Erasmus writes that the imperial court is overrun 
with mendicants, and there is no hope from the emperor. I am on the way 
to Lichtenburg for a conference with Miltitz. Farewell and pray for me. 

The game of obstruction had already begun. Frederick the Wise 
played the instructions of Aleander and the commission of Miltitz 
against John Eck. Miltitz had never been recalled by the pope and 
now said frankly that Eck had no business to publish the bull while 
friendly negotiations were still in progress. Frederick resolved to 
keep them going, and therefore arranged for a new interview be- 
tween Luther and Miltitz, and of course the Archbishop of Trier 
was still in the picture as an arbiter. For that reason Luther impugned 
the genuineness of the bull on the ground that Rome would not make 



monkeys of two electors by taking the case out of their hands. "There- 
fore I will not believe in the authenticity of this bull until I see the 
original lead and wax, string, signature, and seal with my own eyes." 
For a time Luther reckoned with the double possibility that the 
bull might be either true or false. In that sense he came out with 
a vehement assault, apparently at the instance of Spalatin, to whom he 

It is hard to dissent from all the pontiffs and princes, but there is no 
other way to escape hell and the wrath of God. If you had not urged, I 
would leave everything to. God and do no more than I have done. I have 
put out a reply to the bull in Latin, of which I am sending you a copy* 
The German version is in the press. When since the beginning of the 
world did Satan ever so rage against God? I am overcome by the magni- 
tude of the horrible blasphemies of this bull. I am almost persuaded by 
many and weighty arguments that the last day is at the threshold. The 
Kingdom of Antichrist begins to fall. I see an insuppressible insurrection 
coming out of this bull, which the Roman curia deserves. 


The reply to which he referred was entitled Against the Execrable 
Bull of Antichrist. Luther wrote: 

I have heard that a bull against me has gone through the whole earth 
before it came to me, because being a daughter of darkness it feared the 
light of my face. For this reason and also because it condemns manifestly 
Christian articles I had my doubts whether it really came from Rome and 
was not rather the progeny of that man of lies, dissimulation, errors, and 
heresy, that monster John Eck. The suspicion was further increased when 
it was said that Eck was the apostle of the bull. Indeed the style and the 
spittle all point to Eck. True, it is not impossible that where Eck is the 
apostle there one should find the kingdom of Antichrist. Nevertheless 
in the meantime I will act as if I thought Leo not responsible, not that I 
may honor the Roman name, but because I do not consider myself worthy 
to suffer such high things for the truth of God. For who before God 
would be happier than Luther if he were condemned from so great and 
high a source for such manifest truth? But the cause seeks a worthier 
martyr. I with my sins merit other things. But whoever wrote this 
bull, he is Antichrist. I protest before God, our Lord Jesus, his sacred 



angels, and the whole world that with my whole heart I dissent from 
the damnation of this bull, that I curse and execrate it as sacrilege and 
blasphemy of Christ, God's Son and our Lord. This be my recantation, 
O bull, thou daughter of bulls. 

Having given my testimony I proceed to take up the bull. Peter said 
that you should give a reason for the faith that is in you, but this bull 
condemns me from its own word without any proof from Scripture, 
whereas I back up all my assertions from the Bible. I ask thee, ignorant 
Antichrist, dost thou think that with thy naked words thou canst prevail 
against the armor of Scripture? Hast thou learned this from Cologne and 
Louvain? If this is all it takes, just to say, "I dissent, I deny," what fool, 
what ass, what mole, what log could not condemn? Does not thy 
meretricious brow blush that with thine inane smoke thou withstandest 
the lightning of the divine Word? Why do we not believe the Turks? 
Why do we not admit the Jews? Why do we not honor the heretics if 
damning is all that it takes? But Luther, who is used to bellum, is not 
afraid of bullam. I can distinguish between inane paper and the omnipotent 
Word of God. 

They show their ignorance and bad conscience by inventing the 
adverb "respectively." My articles are called "respectively some heretical, 
some erroneous, some scandalous," which is as much as to say, "We don't 
know which are which." O meticulous ignorance! I wish to be instructed, 
not respectively, but absolutely and certainly. I demand that they show 
absolutely, not respectively, distinctly and not confusedly, certainly and 
not probably, clearly and riot obscurely, point by point and not in a 
lump, just what is heretical. Let them show where I am a heretic, or dry 
up their spittle. They say that some articles are heretical, some erroneous, 
some scandalous, some offensive. The implication is that those which are 
heretical are not erroneous, those which are erroneous are not scandalous, 
and those which are scandalous are not offensive. What then is this, to 
say that something is not heretical, not scandalous, not false, but yet 
is offensive? So then, you impious and insensate papists, write soberly if 
you want to write. Whether this bull is by Eck or by the pope, it is the 
sum of all impiety, blasphemy, ignorance, impudence, hypocrisy, lying- 
in a word, it is Satan and his Antichrist. 

Where are you now, most excellent Charles the Emperor, kings, and 
Christian princes? You were baptized into the name of Christ, and can 
you suffer these Tartar voices of Antichrist? Where are you, bishops? 
Where, doctors? Where are you who confess Christ? Woe to all who live 
in these times. The wrath of God is coming upon the papists, the enemies 



of the cross of Christ, that all men should resist them. You then, Leo X, 
you cardinals and the rest of you at Rome, I tell you to your faces: "If 
this bull has come out in your name, then I will use the power which 
has been given me in baptism whereby I became a son of God and co-heir 
with Christ, established upon the rock against which the gates of hell 
cannot prevail. I call upon you to renounce your diabolical blasphemy 
and audacious impiety, and, if you will not, we shall all hold your seat 
as possessed and oppressed by Satan, the damned seat of Antichrist, in 
the name of Jesus Christ, whom you persecute." But my zeal carries me 
away. I am not yet persuaded that the bull is by the pope but rather by 
that apostle of impiety, John Eck. 

Then follows a discussion of the articles. The tract concludes: 

If anyone despise my fraternal warning, I am free from his blood in the 
last judgment. It is better that I should die a thousand times than that 
I should retract one syllable of the condemned articles. And as they 
excommunicated me for the sacrilege of heresy, so I excommunicate 
them in the name of the sacred truth of God. Christ will judge whose 
excommunication will stand. Amen. 


Two weeks after the appearance of this tract another came out so 
amazingly different as to make one wonder whether it could be by 
the same man, or if by the same author, how he could pretend to any 
semblance of sincerity. It was entitled Freedom of the Christian Man 
and commenced with a deferential address to Leo X. This little work 
was the fruit of the interview with Miltitz, who reverted to his old 
principle of mediation by asking Luther to address to the pope a 
disclaimer of personal abusiveness and a statement of faith. Luther 
could respond in all integrity. He was not fighting a man but a sys- 
tem. Within a fortnight he could blast the papacy as Antichrist and 
yet address the pope with deference. 

Most blessed father, in all the controversies of the past three years I 
have ever been mindful of you, and although your adulators have 
driven me to appeal to a council in defiance of the futile decrees of your 
predecessors, Pius and Julius, I have never suffered myself because of their 



stupid tyranny to hold your Beatitude in despite. To be sure, I have 
spoken sharply against impious doctrine, but did not Christ call his 
adversaries a generation of vipers, blind guides, and hypocrites? And did 
not Paul refer to his opponents as dogs, concision, and sons of the Devil? 
Who could have been more biting than the prophets? I contend with 
no one about his life, but only concerning the Word of Truth. I look 
upon you less as Leo the Lion than as Daniel in the lions' den of Babylon. 
You may have three or four learned and excellent cardinals, but what 
are they among so many? The Roman curia deserves not you but Satan 
himself. What under heaven is more pestilent, hateful, and corrupt? It is 
more impious than the Turk. But do not think, Father Leo, that when I 
scathe this seat of pestilence I am inveighing against your person. Beware 
of the sirens who would make you not simply a man but half a god. You 
are a servant of servants. Do not listen to those who say that none can be 
Christians without your authority, who make you the lord of heaven, 
hell, and purgatory. They err who put you above a council and the uni- 
versal Church. They err who make you the sole interpreter of Scripture. 
I am sending you a tract as an auspice of peace, that you may see the 
sort of thing with which I could and would more fruitfully occupy 
myself if your adulators would leave me alone. 

Then followed Luther's canticle of the freedom of the Christian 
man. If Luther supposed that this letter and tract would mollify the 
pope, he was exceedingly naive. The deferential letter itself denied 
the primacy of the pope over councils, and the treatise asserted the 
priesthood of all believers. The pretense that the attack was directed, 
not against the pope, but against the curia is the device commonly 
employed by constitutionally-minded revolutionaries who do not 
like to admit to themselves that they are rebelling against the head of 
a government The English Puritans similarly for some time claimed 
that they were not fighting Charles I but only the "Malignants" by 
whom he was surrounded. As conflicts continue, such fictions soon 
become too transparent to be useful. Luther was early driven to aban- 
don the distinction, for the bull had been issued in the name of the 
pope and had never been disclaimed from the Vatican. It demanded 
recantation. That Luther would never accord. On the twenty-ninth 
of November he came out with the Assertion of All the Articles 



Wrongly Condemned in the Ronzan Bull. The tone may be inferred 
from the two following: 

No. 18. The proposition condemned was that "indulgences are 
the pious defrauding of the faithful." Luther commented: 

I was wrong, I admit it, when I said that indulgences were "the pious 
defrauding of the faithful." I recant and I say, "Indulgences are the 
most impious frauds and imposters of the most rascally pontiffs, by which 
they deceive the souls and destroy the goods of the faithful. 

No. 29. The proposition condemned was "that certain articles of 
John Hus condemned at the Council of Constance are most Christian, 
true, and evangelical, which the universal Church cannot condemn." 
Luther commented: 

I was wrong. I retract the statement that certain articles of John Hus 
are evangelical. I say now, "Not some but all the articles of John Hus 
were condemned by Antichrist and his apostles in the synagogue of 
Satan." And to your face, most holy Vicar of God, I say freely that all 
the condemned articles of John Hus are evangelical and Christian, and 
yours are downright impious and diabolical. 

This came out on the day Luther's books were burned at Cologne. 
There were rumors that the next bonfire would be at Leipzig. 
The sixty days of grace would 
soon expire. The count was 
usually reckoned from the day 
the citation was actually re- 
ceived. The bull had reached 
Luther on the tenth of October. 
On the tenth of December, 
Melanchthon on Luther's be- 
half issued an invitation to the 
faculty and students of the uni- 
versity to assemble at ten o'clock 
at the Elster gate, where, in re- 
prisal for the burning of Luther's 




pious and evangelical books, the impious papal constitutions, the 
canon law, and works of scholastic theology would be given to the 
flames. Luther himself threw in the papal bull for good measure. 
The professors went home, but the students sang the Te Deum and 
paraded about the town in a wagon with another bull affixed to a 
pole, and an indulgence on the point of a sword. The works of Eck 
and other opponents of Luther were cremated. 
Luther publicly justified what he had done. 

Since they have burned my books, I burn theirs. The canon law was 
included because it makes the pope a god on earth. So far I have merely 
fooled with this business of the pope. All my articles condemned by 
Antichrist are Christian. Seldom has the pope overcome anyone with 
Scripture and with reason. 

Frederick the Wise undertook to excuse Luther's course to the 
emperor. To one of the counselors he wrote: 

After I left Cologne, Luther's books were burned, and again at Mainz. 
I regret this because Dr. Martin has already protested his readiness to do 
everything consistent with the name of Christian, and I have constantly 
insisted that he should not be condemned unheard, nor should his books 
be burned. If now he has given tit for tat, I hope that His Imperial Majesty 
will graciously overlook it. 

Frederick had never before gone so far as this. He boasted that in 
his whole life he had not exchanged more than twenty words with 
Luther. He claimed to pass no judgment on his teachings but to de- 
mand only that he be given an impartial hearing. Frederick could 
still say that he was not defending Luther's views but merely excus- 
ing his act. The ground was not theology but law. Luther's books 
had been illegally burned. He ought not, indeed, to have retaliated, 
but the emperor should wink at the affront in view of the provoca- 
tion. Frederick was saying that a German, subject to a miscarriage of 
justice, should be excused for burning not only a papal bull but the 
entire canon law, the great legal code which even more than the 
civil law in the Middle Ages had provided the legal basis for Euro- 
pean civilization. 




REDERICK was well advised to turn to the 
emperor. The case at Rome was settled, and 
a formal ban was inevitable. The question was 
whether any additional penalty would be in- 
flicted by the state. That question the state 
itself would have to decide. Obviously Lu- 
ther could do no more than preach, teach, and 
pray, and wait for others to determine the 
disposition to be made of his case. 

Six months were required for the answer. That does not seem a 
long time in comparison with the four years of dallying on the part 
of the Church. Yet one might have supposed that since the emperor 
was imbued with the orthodoxy of Spain he would brook no delay. 
The emperor was not in the position, however, to do as he pleased. 
The pageantry of his coronation did not excuse him from the neces- 
sity of appending his signature to the imperial constitution, and two 
clauses of that constitution have been supposed by some to have been 
inserted by Frederick the Wise in order to safeguard Luther. One 
stipulated that no German of any rank should be taken for trial out- 
side Germany, and the other that none should be outlawed without 
cause and without a hearing. That these provisions were really meant 
to protect the rights of a monk accused of heresy is extremely du- 
bious, and in no extant document did Frederick or Luther ever appeal 
to them. At the same time the emperor was a constitutional monarch; 
and whatever his own convictions, he would not find it expedient 
to govern Germany by arbitrary fiat. 



He confronted a divided public opinion. Some were for Luther, 
some against, and some in between. Those who were for him were 
numerous, powerful, and vocal. Aleander, the papal nuncio in Ger- 
many, reported that nine tenths of the Germans cried, "Luther," 
and the other one tenth, "Death to the pope." This was unquestionably 
an exaggeration. Yet Luther's following was not contemptible. His 
supporters were powerful. Franz von Sickingen from his fortress on 
the Ebernburg controlled the Rhine valley and might well prevent 
the emperor, who came to Germany without Spanish troops, from 
taking action. Luther's supporters were also vocal, and notably Ulrich 
von Hutten, who, scorning submission to Rome in order to obviate 
excommunication, fulminated from the Ebernburg against the curia 
and curdled the blood of Aleander with successive manifestoes. The 
bull Exsurge was reprinted with stinging annotations, and in a tract 
Hutten portrayed himself as the "Bull Killer." He appealed to the 
emperor to shake off the rabble of priests. Threats of violence were 
addressed to Albert of Mainz. Aleander, the papal nuncio, was urged 
to heed the groans of the German people and to accord a fair trial, 
which should not be denied to a parricide. "Do you suppose," de- 
manded Hutten, "that through an edict extracted by guile from the 

emperor you will be able to 
separate Germany from lib- 
erty, faith, religion, and 
truth? Do you think you can 
intimidate us by burning 
books? This question will 
not be settled by the pen 
but by the sword." 

The most influential of 
Luther's supporters was 
Frederick the Wise. He had 
gone so far as to excuse 
the burning of the papal 

bull. At the Diet of Worms 

THE BULL AGAINST LUTHER'* he permitted Fritz, his court 



fool, to mimic the cardinals. Frederick had refused to be wooed 
by the golden rose, the indulgences for the Castle Church at 
Wittenberg, and a benefice for his natural son. The most clear-cut 
confession of Luther's cause on his part comes to us only at third 
hand. Aleander claimed to have heard from Joachim of Branden- 
burg that Frederick had said to him, "Our faith has long lacked 
this light which Martin has brought to it." The remark must 
be discounted because both narrators were eager to smear Fred- 
erick with adherence to Luther. The elector himself repeatedly in- 
sisted that he was not espousing Dr. Martin's opinions but merely de- 
manding a fair hearing. If the f riar was properly heard and condemned, 
Frederick would be the first to do his duty against him as a Christian 
prince. Yet Frederick's notion of a fair hearing meant that Luther 
should be convicted out of the Scriptures. Frederick was often murky 
as to the issues; but when clear, he was dogged. 

On the opposite side were the papalists, men like Eck who took 
their cue from Rome. The curia reiterated pleas to root out the tare, 
expel the scabby sheep, cut away the putrid member, and throw over- 
board the rocker of the bark of St. Peter. The representative of Rome 
throughout the trial was Aleander, whose objective was to have the 
case settled arbitrarily by the emperor without consulting the German 
estates, which were known to be divided. Above all else Luther should 
not receive a hearing before a secular tribunal. He had already been 
condemned by the Church, and the laity should simply implement 
the Church's decision and not re-examine the grounds of condemna- 

Then there was the middle party, headed personally by Erasmus, 
who, despite his statement that the breach was irreparable, did not de- 
sist from efforts at mediation and even fathered a memorandum pro- 
posing the appointment by the emperor and the kings of England and 
Hungary of an impartial tribunal. The Erasmians as a party sensed less 
than their leader the depth of the cleavage between Luther and the 
Church and between Luther and themselves. 

With opinion thus divided delays in settling Luther's case were in- 
evitable. The Lutheran party deliberately resorted to filibustering. 



Curiously some of the greatest obstructionists were at the Vatican be- 
cause the pope had seen his worst fears realized in the election of 
Charles as emperor, and was now disposed to curb his power by sup- 
porting France. But whenever a move was made in that direction, 
Charles, for all his orthodoxy, intimated that Luther could be used as 
a weapon. Even the greatest activists on the scene were less active than 
might have been expected* Hutten was restrained by hope, because he 
believed that history would inevitably repeat itself and in due time any 
German emperor would cksh with the temporal pretensions of the 
pope. Beguiled by these expectations he deferred his priests' war until 
a fellow Humanist taunted him with emitting only froth. But at the 
same time Aleander was intimidated by Hutten's fulminations; and 
when the pope sent a bull of excommunication against both Luther 
and Hutten, Aleander withheld the publication and sent the bull back 
to Rome to have the name of Hutten first expunged. Such communica- 
tions of themselves took months, and thus by reason of Aleander's 
timidity Luther came actually to be outlawed by the empire before 
he had been formally excommunicated by the Church. 


Where, how, and by whom his case should be handled was the prob- 
lem which faced Charles. A decision on the point was reached on the 
fourth of November, 1520, when Charles after his coronation at 
Aachen went to confer with "Uncle Frederick," marooned by the 
gout at Cologne. All knew that important decisions were pending. The 
Lutherans placarded the city with the appeal to Caesar. For the papal- 
ists Aleander hastened to interview Frederick the Wise and urged him 
to commit the case to the pope. Frederick instead called in Erasmus, 
the leader of the moderates, and asked his judgment. Erasmus pursed 
his lips. Frederick strained forward for the weighty answer. "Two 
crimes Luther has committed," came the verdict. u He has attacked 
the crown of the pope and the bellies of the monks." Frederick laughed. 

Thus fortified Frederick conferred with the emperor and secured 
a promise that Luther should not be condemned without a hearing. 
On what grounds Charles was persuaded we do not know, nor what 




sort of hearing he had in mind. The University of Wittenberg 
promptly pointed to a hearing before the forthcoming diet of the 
German nation soon to be assembled at the city of Worms. Frederick 
transmitted the proposal to the emperor's counselors and received 
from His Majesty a reply dated November 28 and addressed to his 
"beloved Uncle Frederick: We are desirous that you should bring 
the above-mentioned Luther to the diet to be held at Worms, that 
there he may be thoroughly investigated by competent persons, that 
no injustice be done nor anything contrary to law." He does not say 
what law, nor by whom the investigation should be conducted, nor 
whether Luther would be at liberty to defend his views. Luther 
should come, that was all. The appeal to Caesar had been heard. This 
invitation on the twenty-eighth of November marked an amazing 
reversal of policy. The Defender of the Faith, who had been burn- 
ing the books, now invited the author of those very books to some 
sort of hearing. Had the emperor been won over to the policy of 
Erasmus? Had some disquieting political news disposed him for a 
moment to bait the pope and cultivate the Germans? Was he fearful 
of popular insurrection? His motives elude us. This only we know, 
that the invitation was issued. 

That was in November, but Luther did not actually appear at the 
diet until April of the next year. In the interim the invitation was 
rescinded and reissued. All the strife of the parties centered on this 
point: Should Luther be permitted to appear before a secular tribunal 
to be examined as to the faith? "Never," was the resolve of Aleander. 

As for myself, I would gladly confront this Satan, but the authority 
of the Holy See should not be prejudiced by subjection to the judgment 
of the laity. One who has been condemned by the pope, the cardinals, and 
prelates should be heard only in prison. The laity, including the emperor, 
are not in a position to review the case. The only competent judge is 
the pope. How can the Church be called the ship of Peter if Peter is not 
at the helm? How can she be the ark of Noah if Noah is not the captain? 
If Luther wants to be heard, he can have a safe conduct to Rome. Or His 
Majesty might send him to the inquisitors in Spain. He can perfectly 
well recant where he is and then come to the diet to be forgiven. He asks 



for a place which is not suspect. What place to him is not suspect, unless 
it be Germany? What judges would he accept unless Hutten and the 
poets? Has the Catholic Church been dead for a thousand years to be 
revived only by Martin? Has the whole world gone wrong and Martin 
only has the eyes to see? 

The emperor was impressed. On the seventeenth of December he 
rescinded the invitation to bring Luther to the diet. The reason as- 
signed was that the sixty days had expired and in consequence if 
Luther were to come to Worms the city would find itself under an 
interdict* One may doubt whether this was the real reason. The mo- 
tives of the emperor for recalling the invitation are as elusive as his 
motives for issuing it, for Luther was not yet formally under the 
ban; and even if he were, a papal dispensation could be secured. 
Charles may have been persuaded by Aleander, irritated by Luther's 
burning of the bull, depressed by news from Spain, and desirous of 
placating the curia. Whatever his reasons, he might have spared him- 
self the onus of a public reversal had he but waited, because Frederick 
the Wise declined the invitation on the ground that the case appeared 
to be prejudged by the burning of Luther's books, for which he was 
sure the emperor was not responsible. Frederick might well entertain a 
doubt because on the very day 
of the burning at Mainz the em- 
peror had issued the invitation 
to Luther. Frederick was deter- 
mined to drive Charles to a 
clarification of his position and 
to an assumption of full respon- 

For that reason the elector in- 
quired of Luther whether he 
would be willing to come in 
case he was invited directly by 
the emperor himself. He an- 




You ask me what I shall do if I am called by the emperor. I will go even 
if I am too sick to stand on my feet. If Caesar calls me, God calls me. If 
violence is used, as well it may be, I commend my cause to God. He lives 
and reigns who saved the three youths from the fiery furnace of the king 
of Babylon, and if He will not save me, my head is worth nothing com- 
pared with Christ. This is no time to think of safety. I must take care 
that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and 
seal our teaching with our blood. 

His mood is more fully revealed in letters to Staupitz. 

This is not the time to cringe, but to cry aloud when our Lord Jesus 
Christ is damned, reviled, and blasphemed. If you exhort me to humility, 
I exhort you to pride. The matter is very serious. We see Christ suffer. 
If hitherto we ought to have been silent and humble, I ask you whether 
now, when the blessed Saviour is mocked, we should not fight for 
him. My father, the danger is greater than many think. Now applies the 

word of the gospel, "He who 
confesses me before men, him 
will I confess in the presence of 
my father, and he who denies 
me before men, him will I 
deny." I write this candidly to 
you because I am afraid you 
hesitate between Christ and the 
pope, though they are diamet- 
rically contrary. Let us pray 
that the Lord Jesus will destroy 
the son of perdition with the 
breath of his mouth. If you will 
not follow, permit me to go. I 
am greatly saddened by your 
submissiveness. You seem to me 
to be a very different Staupitz 
from the one who used to 
preach grace and the cross. . . . Father, do you remember when we were 
at Augsburg you said to me, "Remember, brother, you started this in 
the name of the Lord Jesus." I have never forgotten that, and I say it 
now to you. I burned the pope's books at first with fear and trembling, 
but now I am lighter in heart than I have ever been in my life. They are 
so much more pestilent than I supposed. 




Aleander, unaware of the new approaches to Luther, thought the 
occasion propitious to present an edict which the emperor should issue 
without consulting the diet. The emperor answered that he could not 
act alone. The Archbishop of Mainz had not yet arrived; and when 
he came, he opposed the edict, even though a month earlier he had 
himself authorized the burning of Luther's books. The Elector of 
Saxony also had not yet arrived. His entry coincided with the Feast 
of the Three Kings, and he rode into Worms like one of the Wise 
Men bearing gifts for the young emperor, from whom he secured 
another reversal of policy. Charles promised to assume responsibility 
for Luther's case. Luther being informed replied to Frederick, "I am 
heartily glad that His Majesty will take to himself this affair, which 
is not mine but that of all Christianity and the whole German nation." 

But Charles by this promise evidently did not mean that Luther 
was to have a public hearing before the diet. Instead a committee was 
appointed to handle the case, and Aleander was permitted to address 
it. He bungled his advantage at the very beginning by undertaking 
to demonstrate that Luther was an abominable heretic, whereas in all 
consistency he ought to have pleaded that a lay committee had no 
jurisdiction. Instead he sought to demonstrate from a medieval manu- 
script that the papacy was at least as old as Charlemagne. All of this 
would have been pertinent enough at the Leipzig debate, but the time 
for such discussion had gone by. In the meantime the pope had 
spoken; and the diet was being invited, not to ratify, but simply 
to implement the papal verdict. The committee listened and said 
they would have to wait. 

The delays served to feed the mood of popular violence in the 
city. The reports which we have from opposing sides indicate that 
religious war lay in the offing- Aleander, in the mood of a martyr, 

Martin is pictured with a halo and a dove above his head. The people 
kiss these pictures. Such a quantity have been sold that I was not able to 
obtain one. A cartoon has appeared showing Luther with a book in 



his hand, accompanied by Hutten in armor with a sword under the 
caption, "Champions of Christian Liberty." Another sheet portrays 
Luther in front and Hutten behind carrying a chest on which are two 
chalices with the inscription, "The Ark of the True Faith." Erasmus, in 
front, is playing the harp as David. In the background is John Hus, whom 
Luther has recently proclaimed his saint. In another part of the picture 
the pope and the cardinals are being bound by the soldiers of the guard. 
I cannot go out on the streets but the Germans put their hands to their 
swords and gnash their teeth at me. I hope the pope will give me a 
plenary indulgence and look after my brothers and sisters if anything 
happens to me. 

The disturbances are described from the other side in a letter of a 
Humanist at Worms to Hutten: 

A Spaniard tore up your edition of the bull and trampled it in the mud. 
A chaplain of the emperor and two Spaniards caught a man with sixty 
copies of The Babylonian Captivity. The people came to the rescue, and 
the assailants had to take refuge in the castle. A mounted Spaniard pursued 
one of our men, who barely escaped through a door. The Spaniard reined 
up so suddenly that he fell off his horse and could not rise until a German 
lifted him. Every day two or three Spaniards gallop on their mules 
through the market place, and the people have to make way for them. 
This is our freedom. 

Overt violence was continually incited by the dissemination of de- 
famatory pamphlets. Aleander claimed that a wagon would not hold 
the scurrilous tracts with which Worms was deluged, such as a parody 
on the Apostles' Creed: 

I believe in the pope, binder and looser in heaven, earth, and hell, and 
in Simony, his only son our lord, who was conceived by the canon law 
and bom of the Romish church. Under his power truth suffered, was 
crucified, dead and buried, and through the ban descended to hell, rose 
again through the gospel and Paul and was brought to Charles, sitting 
at his right hand, who in future is to rule over spiritual and worldly 
things. I believe in the canon law, in the Romish church, in the destruction 
of faith and of the communion of saints, in indulgences both for the 
remission of guilt and penalty in purgatory, in the resurrection of the 



flesh in an Epicurean life, because given to us by the Holy Father, the 
pope. Amen. 

The emperor was irritated. When on February 6 Luther's appeal 
was handed to him, he tore it up and trampled on it. But he was quick 
to recover his composure and summoned a plenary session of the diet 
on the thirteenth of February. The plan was to present a new version 
of the edict, to be issued in the name of the emperor but with the 
consent of the diet. Aleander was given an opportunity to prepare 
their minds in a three-hour speech. Once again he allowed the oppor- 
tunity to slip through his fingers. He was now in a position to correct 
the mistake he had made in addressing the committee. Two days 
previously the papal bull excommunicating Luther had come into his 
hands. He had only to produce it to alky the objection that the 
diet was being asked to outlaw a man not yet banned by the Church. 
This was the time when Aleander held back because the bull named 
not only Luther but Hutten. The document was not produced. 
The diet proceeded to examine a case of heresy, and Aleander him- 
self rather than Luther was responsible for turning a secular assembly 
into a church council. 

Aleander unquestionably made a very good case against Luther, 
a very much better case than did the bull, which simply incorporated 
the earlier condemnation of Exsurge Domme, with no fresh examina- 
tion of the more subversive tracts of the summer of 1520. Aleander 
had memorized whole sections of these works and set out again to 
prove that Luther was 

a heretic who brought up John Hus from hell and endorsed not some 
but all of his articles. In consequence he must endorse also Wyclif s denial 
of the real presence [which he did not], and Wyclif s claim that no 
Christian can bind another by law. This point Luther claimed to have 
asserted in his freedom of the Christian Man [which he did not]. He 
rejects monastic vows. He rejects ceremonies. He appeals to councils 
and rejects the authority of councils. Like all heretics he appeals to Scrip- 
ture and yet rejects Scripture when it does not support him. He would 
throw out the Epistle of James because it contains the proof text for 
extreme unction [which certainly was not Luther's reason]. He is a 



heretic and an obstinate heretic. He asks for a hearing, but how can a 
hearing be given to one who will not listen to an angel from heaven? He 
is also a revolutionary. He claims that the Germans should wash their 
hands in the blood of the papists. [The reference is obviously to Luther's 
unbridled outburst against Prierias.] 

No more damaging case could have been made against Luther 
before the diet, which was now asked to endorse the imperial edict 
proclaiming Luther a Bohemian heretic and a revolutionary who 
would soon be formally excommunicated by the pope. (The bull., 
of course, had been held back.) Unless absolved, he should be im- 
prisoned and his books eradicated. Non-co-operators with the edict 
would be guilty of lese majesty. The presentation of this edict 
precipitated a storm. The electors of Saxony and Brandenburg had 
to be separated on the floor of the diet by Cardinal Lang. The Elector 
Palatinate, ordinarily taciturn, bellowed like a bull. The estates de- 
manded time, and on the nineteenth answered that Luther's teaching 
was already so firmly rooted among the people that a condemnation 
without a hearing would occasion grave danger of insurrection. 
He should be brought to the diet under safe conduct, to be examined 
by learned men. He should be brought to answer, not to argue. 
If he would renounce what he had said against the faith, other points 
could be discussed. If he refused, then the diet would support the 


The emperor thereupon reverted to his earlier agreement that 
Luther should come. The edict was subjected to dentistry. The 
penalties for lese majesty were dropped. The edict should be issued 
in the name of the estates rather than of the emperor alone, and Luther 
should be brought to the diet for examination. The emperor then 
composed a new invitation for Luther. It was dated the sixth, although 
not sent until the eleventh, because in the meantime another attempt 
was made to induce Frederick to assume responsibility for bringing 
the accused. But again he passed the onus directly back to the em- 
peror, who at last sent the missive addressed to "Our noble, dear, and 



esteemed Martin Luther." "Zounds!" exclaimed Aleander when he 
saw it, "that's no way to address a heretic." The letter continued: 
"Both we and the diet have decided to ask you to come under safe 
conduct to answer with regard to your books and teaching. You 
shall have twenty-one days in which to arrive." There is no clear 
statement that discussion would be precluded. The invitation was 
delivered at the hands, not of the common postman, but of the im- 
perial herald, Caspar Sturm. 
Would Luther come? There was real doubt. To Spalatin he wrote: 

I will reply to the emperor that if I am being invited simply to recant 
I will not come. If to recant is all that is wanted, I can do that perfectly 
well right here. But if he is inviting me to my death, then I will come. I 
hope none but the papists will stain their hands in my blood, Antichrist 
reigns. The Lord's will be done. 

To another he wrote: 

This shall be my recantation at Worms: "Previously I said the pope is 
the vicar of Christ. I recant. Now I say the pope is the adversary of Christ 
and the apostle of the Devil." 

Evidently Luther had decided to go. 

On the way he learned of an edict for the sequestration of his 
books. Its publication had been delayed, perhaps through fear that 
if he saw it he would infer that the case was settled and would not 
come. But his comment was, "Unless I am held back by force, or 
Caesar revokes his invitation, I will enter Worms under the banner 
of Christ against the gates of hell." He had no illusions as to the 
probable outcome. After an ovation at Erfurt he commented, "I have 
had my Palm Sunday. I wonder whether this pomp is merely a temp- 
tation or whether it is also the sign of my impending passion." 

While his coming was awaited, another lampoon was published in 
Worms, entitled the Litany of the Germans: 

Christ hear the Germans; Christ hear the Germans. From evil counselors 
deliver Charles, O Lord. From poison on the way to Worms deliver 



Martin Luther, preserve Ulrich von Hutten, O Lord. Suffer not thyself, 
Lord, to be crucified afresh. Purge Aleander, O Lord. The nuncios work- 
ing against Luther at Worms, smite from heaven. O Lord Christ, hear 
the Germans. 

The Catholic moderates, however, desired that the case might be 
disposed of out of court. The leader of this party was Glapion, the 
emperor's confessor. Whether he was a sincere Erasmian or a son 
of duplicity is debatable, but he certainly began his negotiations be- 
fore there could be any suspicion that he was trying to divert Luther 
from Worms until after the expiration of the safe conduct. Glapion 
had previously approached Frederick the Wise with a very engaging 
argument. Luther's earlier works, he claimed, had warmed his heart. 
He thoroughly agreed with the attack on indulgences and saw in 
The Freedom of the Christian Man a wonderful Christian spirit. 
But when he had read The Babylonian Captivity, he was simply 
aghast. He could not believe that Luther would acknowledge the 
book. It was not in his usual style. If he had written it, he must have 
done so in a fit of passion. In that case he should be ready to have it 
interpreted in the sense of the Church. If he would comply, he would 
have many supporters. The matter should be settled in private, else 
the Devil would stir up contention, war, and insurrection. No good 
could come of public controversy, and only the Devil would profit 
from Luther's appearance at Worms. 

The appeal was most ingratiating because it was so true. Had 
Luther been willing to abandon the attack on the sacraments, he 
might have rallied a united German nation for the reduction of papal 
power and extortion. The diet might have wrung from the pope 
the sort of concessions already granted to the strong national states 
of France, Spain, and England. Schism might have been avoided, and 
religious war could have been averted. To a man like Frederick 
the Wise this must have been a most appealing proposal, but he was 
resolved to make no overtures which would give the emperor an op- 
portunity to evade his responsibility. 

Gkpion then turned to another quarter. Why not work through 



Sickingen and Hutten? First, engage Hutten with a pension from 
the emperor; then let Luther be invited to Sickingen's castle at the 
Ebernburg for a conference. Glapion had the courage to go in person 
and beard Hutten and Sickingen in their eagle's nest. He was so 
sympathetic toward Luther and made the emperor appear so favor- 
able that Hutten accepted the pension (subsequently to be declined), 
and Sickingen sent his chaplain, Martin Bucer, to intercept Luther 
on the way to Worms and to extend the invitation. But Luther had 
set his face to go up to Jerusalem and would not be turned aside. He 
would enter Worms though there were as many devils as tiles on the 
roofs. Hutten was moved. "It is as clear as day," he wrote Pirkheimer, 
"that he was directed by divine guidance. He disregarded all human 
considerations and threw himself utterly upon God." And to Luther, 
"Here is the difference between us. I look to men. You, who are 
already more perfect, trust everything to God." 


On the sixteenth of April, Luther entered Worms in a Saxon 
two-wheeled cart with a few companions. The imperial herald pre- 
ceded, wearing the eagle upon his cloak. Although it was the dinner 
hour, two thousand turned out to conduct Luther to his lodging. 
On the following day at four o'clock Luther was waited upon by the 
herald and the imperial marshal, who conducted him furtively, to 
avoid the crowds, to a meeting of the emperor, the electors, and a 
portion of the estates. The monk stood before the monarch, who ex- 
claimed, "That fellow will never make a heretic of me." 

The scene lends itself to dramatic portrayal. Here was Charles, heir 
of a long line of Catholic sovereigns of Maximilian the romantic, of 
Ferdinand the Catholic, of Isabella the orthodox scion of the house 
of Hapsburg, lord of Austria, Burgundy, the Low Countries, Spain, 
and Naples, Holy Roman Emperor, ruling over a vaster domain than 
any save Charlemagne, symbol of the medieval unities, incarnation 
of a glorious if vanishing heritage; and here before him a simple monk, 
a miner's son, with nothing to sustain him save his own faith in the 
Word of God. Here the past and the future were met. Some would 



see at this point the beginning of modern times. The contrast is real 
enough. Luther himself was sensible of it in a measure. He was well 
aware that he had not been reared as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 
but what overpowered him was not so much that he stood in the 
presence of the emperor as this, that he and the emperor alike were 
called upon to answer before Almighty God. 

Luther was examined by an official of the Archbishop of Trier, 
Eck by name, not of course the Eck of the Leipzig debate. Luther 
was confronted with a pile of his books and asked whether they were 

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his. The very question reopened the overture of Glapion. Luther 
might now repudiate The Babylonian Captivity and invite discussion 
of the financial and political pretensions of the papacy. This was his 
opportunity to rally a united Germany. In a voice barely audible 
he answered, "The books are all mine, and I have written more." 

The door was closed, but Eck opened it again. "Do you defend 
them all, or do you care to reject a part?" 

Luther reflected aloud, "This touches God and his Word, This 
affects the salvation of souls. Of this Christ said, 'He who denies 
me before men, him will I deny before my father.' To say too little 
or too much would be dangerous. I beg you, give me time to think it 


The emperor and the diet deliberated. Eck brought the answer. He 
expressed amazement that a theological professor should not be ready 
at once to defend his position, particularly since he had come for that 
very purpose. He deserved no consideration. Nevertheless, the em- 
peror in his clemency would grant him until the morrow. 

Eck's amazement has been so shared by some modern historians as 
to prompt the suggestion that Luther's request was preconcerted, a 
part of the stalling tactic of Frederick the Wise. But anyone who 
recalls Luther's tremors at his first mass will scarcely so interpret 
this hesitation. Just as then he wished to flee from the altar, so now 
he was too terrified before God to give an answer to the emperor. 
At the same time we must admit that Luther's tremor before the Divine 
Majesty served actually to bring him before a plenary session of the 
diet. On the following day, the eighteenth, a larger hall was chosen 
and was so crowded that scarcely any save the emperor could sit. 
The terror of the Holy conspired to give Luther a hearing before 
the German nation. 

He had been summoned for four o'clock on the afternoon of the 
morrow, but the press of business delayed his appearance until six. 
This time his voice was ringing. Eck reiterated the question of the 
previous day. Luther responded: "Most serene emperor, most illus- 
trious princes, most clement lords, if I have not given some of you 
your proper tides I beg you to forgive me. I am not a courtier, but 



a monk. You asked me yesterday whether the books were mine and 
whether I would repudiate them. They are all mine, but as for the 
second question, they are not all of one sort." 

This was a skillful move. By differentiating his works Luther won 
for himself the opportunity of making a speech instead of answering 
simply yes or no. 

He went on: "Some deal with faith and life so simply and evan- 
gelically that my very enemies are compelled to regard them as 
worthy of Christian reading. Even the bull itself does not treat all 
my books as of one kind. If I should renounce these, I would be 
the only man on earth to damn the truth confessed alike by friends 
and foes. A second class of my works inveighs against the desolation 
of the Christian world by the evil lives and teaching of the papists. 
Who can deny this when the universal complaints testify that by the 
laws of the popes the consciences of men are racked?" 

"No!" broke in the emperor. 

Luther, unruffled, went on to speak of the "incredible tyranny" 
by which this German nation was devoured. "Should I recant at this 
point, I would open the door to more tyranny and impiety, and it 
will be all the worse should it appear that I had done so at the instance 
of the Holy Roman Empire." This was a skillful plea to German 
nationalism, which had a strong following in the diet. Even Duke 
George the Catholic took the fore in presenting grievances. 

"A third class," continued Luther, "contains attacks on private 
individuals. I confess I have been more caustic than comports with 
my profession, but I am being judged, not on my life, but for the 
teaching of Christ, and I cannot renounce these works either, without 
increasing tyranny and impiety. When Christ stood before Annas, 
he said, 'Produce witnesses.' If our Lord, who could not err, made this 
demand, why may not a worm like me ask to be convicted of error 
from the prophets and the Gospels? If I am shown my error, I will 
be the first to throw my books into the fire. I have been reminded of 
the dissensions which my teaching engenders. I can answer only in 
the words of the Lord, *I came not to bring peace but a sword.' If our 
God is so severe, let us beware lest we release a deluge of wars, 



lest the reign of this noble youth, Charles, be inauspicious. Take 
warning from the examples of Pharaoh, the king of Babylon, and the 
kings of Israel. God it is who confounds the wise. I must walk in 
the fear of the Lord. I say this not to chide but because I cannot escape 
my duty to my Germans. I commend myself to Your Majesty. May 
you not suffer my adversaries to make you ill disposed to me without 
cause. I have spoken." 

Eck replied: "Martin, you have not sufficiently distinguished your 
works. The earlier were bad and the latter worse. Your plea to be 
heard from Scripture is the one always made by heretics. You do 
nothing but renew the errors of Wyclif and Hus. How will the Jews, 
how will the Turks, exult to hear Christians discussing whether they 
have been wrong all these years! Martin, how can you assume that 
you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? Would you 
put your judgment above that of so many famous men and claim that 
you know more than they all? You have no right to call into question 
the most holy orthodox faith, instituted by Christ the perfect law- 
giver, proclaimed throughout the world by the apostles, sealed by 
the red blood of the martyrs, confirmed by the sacred councils, de- 
fined by the Church in which all our fathers believed until death and 
gave to us as an inheritance, and which now we are forbidden by the 
pope and the emperor to discuss lest there be no end of debate. I ask 
you, Martin answer candidly and without horns do you or do you 
not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?" 
Luther replied, "Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire 
a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless 
I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the 
authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each 
other my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and 
I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right 
nor safe. God help me. Amen." 

The earliest printed version added the words: "Here I stand, I can- 
not do otherwise." The words, though not recorded on the spot, may 
nevertheless be genuine, because the listeners at the moment may have 
been too moved to write. 


Luther had spoken in German. He was asked to repeat in Latin. 
He was sweating. A friend called out, "If you can't do it, Doctor, 
you have done enough." Luther made again his affirmation in Latin, 
threw up his arms in the gesture of a victorious knight, and slipped 
out of the darkened hall, amid the hisses of the Spaniards, and went 
to his lodging. Frederick the Wise went also to his lodging and re- 
marked, "Dr. Martin spoke wonderfully before the emperor, the 
princes, and the estates in Latin and in German, but he is too daring 
for me." On the following day Aleander heard the report that all six 
of the electors were ready to pronounce Luther a heretic. That would 
include Frederick the Wise. Spalatin says that Frederick was indeed 
much troubled to know whether Luther had or had not been con- 
victed from the Scriptures. 


The emperor called in the electors and a number of the princes to 
ask their opinions. They requested time. "Very well," said the em- 
peror, "I will give you my opinion," and he read to them a paper 
which he had written out himself in French. This was no speech com- 
posed by a secretary. The young Hapsburg was confessing his faith: 

I am descended from a long line of Christian emperors of this noble 
German nation, and of the Catholic kings of Spain, the archdukes of 
Austria, and the dukes of Burgundy. They were all faithful to the death 
to the Church of Rome, and they defended the Catholic faith and the 
honor of God. I have resolved to follow in their steps. A single friar who 
goes counter to all Christianity for a thousand years must be wrong. 
Therefore I am resolved to stake my knds, my friends, my body, my 
blood, my life, and my soul. Not only I, but you of this noble German 
nation, would be forever disgraced if by our negligence not only heresy 
but the very suspicion of heresy were to survive. After having heard 
yesterday the obstinate defense of Luther, I regret that I have so long 
delayed in proceeding against him and his false teaching. I will have no 
more to do with him. He may return under his safe conduct, but without 
preaching or making any tumult. I will proceed against him as a notorious 
heretic, and ask you to declare yourselves as you promised me. 



Many of the emperor's hearers took on the hue of death. On the 
following day the electors declared themselves fully in accord with 
the emperor, but out of six only four signed. The dissenters were 


In hand t writing: Intitulentur libri "Let them read the titles? the 'words called 
out by Luther's lawyer; arid Hier stehe ich/ ich kann nicht anders/ Got hilffe 
mir. Amen. "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen? 

Ludwig of the Palatinate and Frederick of Saxony. He had come 
into the clear. 

The emperor felt now that he had sufficient backing to proceed 
with the edict, but during the night there was posted on the door of 
the town hall and elsewhere in Worms a placard stamped with the 
Bundschuh. This was the symbol of the peasants' revolt, the sandal 
clog of the workingman in contrast to the high boot of the noble. 
For a century Germany had been distraught by peasant unrest. This 
poster strongly implied that if Luther were condemned, the peasants 
would rise. Where the poster came from could only be guessed. 



Hutten surmised that it had been placarded by the papalists in order 
to discredit the Lutherans, but Aleander was equally innocent of the 
source. Whoever did it, Albert of Mainz was in a panic. At dawn he 
rushed to the lodging of the emperor, who laughed at him. But Albert 
would not be put off, and enlisted his brother Joachim, the most ardent 
opponent of Luther. At the instance of these two the estates petitioned 
the emperor to permit Luther to be examined again. The emperor 
replied that he would have nothing to do with it himself, but that they 
might have three days. 

Then began the attempt to break Luther down through a com- 
mittee. The ordeal, though less dramatic, was more crucial than the 
public appearance. He who is able to give a ringing No before a 
public assembly may find it harder, if he is at all sensitive, to resist 
the kindly remonstrances of men concerned to prevent the disruption 
of Germany and the disintegration of the Church. The committee 
was headed by Richard of Greiff enklau, the Archbishop of Trier, 
the custodian of the seamless robe of Christ, whom Frederick the Wise 
had so long been proposing as the arbiter. With him were associated 
some of Luther's friends and some of his foes, among them Duke 

In a slightly different form the attempt of Glapion to secure a 
partial revocation was renewed. Luther's attack on the indulgence 
sellers was again declared to have been warranted, and his denuncia- 
tion of Roman corruption was heart-warming. He had written well 
about good works and the Ten Commandments, but The Freedom of 
the Christian Man would prompt the masses to reject all authority. 
One observes that this time the attack centered not on the demolition 
of the sacramental system in The Babylonian Captivity but on the 
alleged threat to public tranquillity in the tract on Christian liberty. 
Luther replied that he intended nothing of the sort and would counsel 
obedience even to evil magistrates. Trier besought him not to rend the 
seamless robe of Christendom. He answered with the counsel of 
Gamaliel, to wait and see whether his teaching was of God or of man. 
Luther was reminded that if he went down, Melanchthon would be 
pulled after him At this his eyes welled with tears; but when asked 



to name a judge whom he would accept, he stiffened and replied that 
he would name a child of eight or nine years. "The pope," he declared, 
"is no judge of matters pertaining to God's Word and faith, but 
a Christian man must examine and judge for himself." The committee 
reported failure to the emperor. 

On the sixth of May, His Majesty presented to a diminishing diet 
the final draft of the Edict of Worms, prepared by Aleander. Luther 
was charged with attacking the seven sacraments after the manner of 
the damned Bohemians. 

He has sullied marriage, disparaged confession, and denied the body 
and blood of our Lord. He makes the sacraments depend on the faith 
of the recipient. He is pagan in his denial of free will. This devil in the 
habit of a monk has brought together ancient errors into one stinking 
puddle and has invented new ones. He denies the power of the keys and 
encourages the laity to wash their hands in the blood of the clergy. His 
teaching makes for rebellion, division, war, murder, robbery, arson, and 
the collapse of Christendom. He lives the life of a beast. He has burned 
the decretals. He despises alike the ban and the sword. He does more 
harm to the civil than to the ecclesiastical power. We have labored with 
him, but he recognizes only the authority of Scripture, which he interprets 
in his own sense. We have given him twenty-one days, dating from April 
the 15th. We have now gathered the estates. Luther is to be regarded as 
a convicted heretic [although the bull of excommunication still had not 
been published]. When the time is up, no one is to harbor him. His 
followers ako are to be condemned. His books are to be eradicated from 
the memory of man. 

Aleander brought the edict to the emperor for his signature. He 
took up the pen. "Then," says Aleander, "I haven't the ghost of a 
notion why, he laid it down and said he must submit the edict to the 
diet." The emperor knew why. The members were going home. 
Frederick the Wise had left. Ludwig of the Palatinate had left. Those 
who remained were a rump ready to condemn Luther. Although the 
edict was dated as of the sixth of May, it was not issued until the twen- 
ty-sixth. By that time the diet was sufficiently reduced to consent. The 
emperor then signed. Aleander recorded: 



His Majesty signed both the Latin and the German with his own blessed 
hand, and smiling said, "You will be content now." "Yes," I answered, 
"and even greater will be the contentment of His Holiness and of all 
Christendom." We praise God for giving us such a religious emperor. 
May God preserve him in all his holy ways, who has already acquired 
perpetual glory, and with God eternal reward. I was going to recite a 
paean from Ovid when I recalled that this was a religious occasion. 
Therefore blessed be the Holy Trinity for his immense mercy. 

The Edict of Worms, passed by a secular tribunal entrusted with a 
case of heresy at the instance of Lutherans and against the opposition 
of the papalists, was at once repudiated by the Lutherans as having 
been passed by only a rump, and was sponsored by the papalists be- 
cause it was a confirmation of the Catholic faith. The Church of 
Rome, which had so strenuously sought to prevent turning the Diet 
of Worms into an ecclesiastical council, became in the light of the 
outcome the great vindicator of the pronouncement of a secular 
tribunal on heresy. 




OSTTEMPORARIES deemed Luther's trial at 
Worms a re-enactment of the passion of 
Christ. Albrecht Diirer on the seventeenth of 
May recorded in his diary this prayer: "O 
Lord, who desirest before thou comest to 
judgment that as thy Son Jesus Christ had to 
die at the hands of the priests and rise from 
the dead and ascend to heaven, even so should 
thy disciple Martin Luther be made conformable to him." The secular- 
ized twentieth century is more shocked by such a comparison than 
the sixteenth, when men walked in a perpetual Passion play. Some 
anonymous pamphleteer did not hesitate to narrate the proceedings 
at Worms in the very language of the Gospels, identifying Albert 
with Caiaphas, Lang with Annas, Frederick with Peter, and Charles 
with Pilate. Our sole account of the burning of Luther's books at 
Worms is from this document and reads: 

Then the governor [Charles in the role of Pilate] delivered to them the 
books of Luther to be burned. The priests took them; and when the 
princes and the people had left, the diet made a great pyre in front of the 
high priest's palace, where they burned the books, placing on the top a 
picture of Luther with this inscription, "This is Martin Luther, the Doctor 
of the GospeL" The title was read by many Romanists because the place 
where Luther's books were burned was not far from the bishop's court. 
Now this title was written in French, German, and in Latin. 

Then die high priests and the Romanists said to the governor, 'Write 
not, *A Doctor of evangelical truth,' but that he said, *I am a Doctor of 
evangelical truth.' " 



But the governor answered, "What I have written I have written." 

And with him two other doctors were burned, Hutten and Carlstadt, 
one on the right and one on the left. But the picture of Luther would 
not burn until the soldiers had folded it and put it inside a vessel of pitch, 
where it was reduced to ashes. As a count beheld these things which were 
done, he marveled and said, "Truly he is a Christian." And all the throng 
present, seeing these things which had come to pass, returned beating 
their breasts. 

The following day the chief priests and the Pharisees, together with 
the Romanists, went to the governor and said, "We recall that this seducer 
said he wished later to write greater things. Make an order, therefore, 
throughout the whole earth that his books be not sold, lest the latest 
error be worse than the first." 

But the governor said, cc You have your own guard. Go publish bulls, 
as you know how, through your false excommunication." They then went 
away and put forth horrible mandates in the name of the Roman pontiff 
and of the emperor, but to this day they have not been obeyed* 

This picture of Charles as Pilate yielding only reluctantly to the 
churchmen does not of course fit the facts. In his private domains 
the Counter Reformation, already begun, was pursued in earnest. 
Aleander returned to the Netherlands, and the burning of books 
went on merrily. As a certain friar was supervising a bonfire, a by- 
stander said to him, "You would see better if the ashes of Luther's 
books got into your eyes." He was a bold man who dared to say so 
much. Erasmus, at Louvain, began to realize that the choice for him 
would soon lie between the stake or exile. Ruefully confessing that he 
was not cut out for martyrdom, he transferred his residence to Basel. 

Albrecht Diirer in the Netherlands received the word that Lu- 
ther's passion was complete. He reflected in his diary: 

I know not whether he lives or is murdered, but in any case he has 
suffered for the Christian truth. If we lose this man, who has written more 
clearly than any other in centuries, may God grant his spirit to another. 
His books should be held in great honor, and not burned as the emperor 
commands, but rather the books of his enemies. O God, if Luther is dead, 
who will henceforth explain to us the gospel? What might he not have 
written for us in the next ten or twenty years? 





Luther was not dead. His friends began to receive letters "From the 
Wilderness," "From the Isle of Patmos." Frederick the Wise had 
decided to hide him, and gave instructions to court officials to make 
the arrangements without divulging the details, even to himself, that 
he might truthfully feign innocence. Spalatin, however, might know. 
Luther and one companion 
were apprised of the plan. Lu- 
ther was not very happy over 
it. He had set his face to re- 
turn to Wittenberg, come 
what might. With a few com- 
panions in a wagon he was 
entering the woods on the out- 
skirts of the village of Eisen- 
ach when armed horsemen 
fell upon the party and with 
much cursing and show of 
violence dragged Luther to the ground. The one companion, privy to 
the ruse, played his part and roundly berated the abductors. They 
placed Luther upon a horse and led him for a whole day by circuitous 
roads through the woods until at dusk, loomed up against the sky, the 
massive contours of Wartburg Castle. At eleven o'clock in the night 
the party reined up before the gates. 

This ancient fortress was already the symbol of a bygone day, when 
German knighthood was in flower and sanctity unquestioned as the 
highest end of man. Here monarchs and minstrels, knights and fools, 
had had their assemblage, and here St. Elizabeth had left the relics of 
her holiness. But Luther was of no mind for historic reveries. As he 
laid him down in the chamber of the almost untenanted bastion, and 
the owls and bats wheeled about in the darkness, it seemed to him that 
the Devil was pelting nuts at the ceiling and rolling casks down the 
stairs. More insidious than such pranks of the Prince of Darkness was 
the unallayed question, "Are you alone wise? Have so many centuries 
gone wrong? What if you are in error and are taking so many others 



with you to eternal damnation?" In the morning he threw open the 
casement window and looked out on the fair Thuringian hills. In the 
distance he could see a cloud of smoke rising from the pits of the 
charcoal burners. A gust of wind lifted and dissipated the cloud. Even 
so were his doubts dispelled and his faith restored. 

But only for a moment. The 
mood of Elijah at Horeb was 
upon him. The priests of Baal 
indeed were slain, but Jezebel 
sought the prophet's life, and he 
cried, "It is enough! Now, O 
Lord, take away my life!" Lu- 
ther passed from one self-in- 
crimination to another. If he had 
not been in error, then had he 
been sufficiently firm in the de- 
fense of truth? "My conscience 
troubles me because at Worms 
I yielded to the importunity of 
my friends and did not play the 
part of Elijah. They would hear 
other things from me if I were 
before them again." And when 
he contemplated the sequel, he 
could not well feel encouraged. 
"What an abominable spectacle is the kingdom of the Roman Anti- 
christ," he wrote to Melanchthon. "Spalatin writes of the most cruel 
edicts against me." 

Yet all the outward peril was as nothing to the inner struggles. "I 
can tell you in this idle solitude there are a thousand battles with Satan. 
It is much easier to fight against the incarnate Devil that is, against 
men than against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. Often 
I fall and am lifted again by God's right hand." Solitude and idleness 
increased his distress. To Spalatin he wrote, "Now is the time to pray 
with our might against Satan. He is plotting an attack on Germany, 




and I fear God will permit him because I am so indolent in prayer. I 
am mightily displeasing to myself, perhaps because I am alone." He 
wasn't quite alone. There were the warden and two serving boys, but 
they were hardly the sort to whom he could unburden himself as to 
Staupitz of old. He had been warned not to seek out company and not 
to become confidential lest he betray himself. The monk's cowl was 
laid aside. He dressed as a knight and grew a long beard. The warden 
did his best to provide a diversion, and included Luther in a hunting 
party. But he was revolted. "There is some point/' he reflected, "in 
tracking down bears, wolves, boars, and foxes, but why should one 
pursue a harmless creature like a rabbit?" One ran up his leg to escape 
the dogs, but they bit through the cloth and killed it. "Just as the pope 
and the Devil treat us," commented the inveterate theologian. 

He was idle, so he said. At any rate he was removed from the fracas. 
"I did not want to come here," he wrote. "I wanted to be in the fray." 
And again, "I had rather burn on live coals than rot here." 

To loneliness and lack of public activity were added physical ills 
which were not new but were greatly accentuated by the circum- 
stances. While still at Worms he had been overtaken by acute attacks 
of constipation, due perhaps to nervous depletion after the crucial 
days. The restricted diet and the sedentary ways at the Wartburg 
made the case worse. He was minded to risk his life by forsaking his 
concealment in order to procure medical assistance at Erfurt. Com- 
plaints continued from May until October, when Spalatin was able to 
send in laxatives. 

The other malady was insomnia. It began in 1520 through attempts 
to make up arrears in saying the canonical hours. All through his con- 
troversy with Rome he was still a monk, obligated to say matins, tierce, 
nones, vespers, and complin. But when he became a professor at the 
university, a preacher in the village church, and the director of eleven 
monasteries, he was simply too busy to keep up. He would stack his 
prayers for a week, two weeks, even three weeks, and then would take 
off a Sunday or, on one occasion, three whole days without food or 
drink until he was "prayed up." After such an orgy in 1520 his head 
reeled. For five days he could get no sleep, and lay on his bed as one 




dead, until the doctor gave him a sedative. During convalescence the 
prayer book revolted him, and he fell in arrears a quarter of a year. 
Then he gave up. This was one of the stages in his weaning from 
monasticism. The permanent residue of the experience was insomnia. 
Luther found one cure for depressions at the Wartburg, and that 
was work. "That I may not be idle in my Patmos," he said, in dedicat- 
ing a tract to Sickingen, "I have written a book of Revelation." He 
wrote not one, but closer to a dozen. To a friend at Strassburg he ex- 

It would not be safe to send you my books, but I have asked Spalatin 
to see to it. I have brought out a reply to Catharinus and another to 
Latomus, and in German a work on confession, expositions of Psalms 67 
and 36, a commentary on the Magnificat, and a translation of Melanch- 
thon's reply to the University of Paris. I have under way a volume of 
sermons on the lessons from the epistles and Gospels. I am attacking the 
Cardinal of Mainz and expounding the ten lepers. 

On top of all this he translated the entire New Testament into his 
mother tongue. This was his stint for the year. One wonders whether 
his depressions were anything more than the rhythm of work and 


Nor was he actually removed from the fray. The reformation at 
Wittenberg moved with disconcerting velocity, and he was kept 
abreast of it in so far as tardy communication and the conditions of 
his concealment permitted. His opinion was continually solicited, and 
his answers affected the developments, even though he was not in a 
position to take the initiative. Leadership fell to Melanchthon, profes- 
sor of Greek at the university; to Carlstadt, professor and archdeacon 
at the Castle Church; and to Gabriel Zwilling, a monk of Luther's own 
order, the Augustinians. Under the lead of these men the reformation 
for the first time assumed a form distinctly recognizable to the common 

Nothing which Luther had done hitherto made any difference to 
the ways of ordinary folk, except of course the attack on indulgences, 



but that had not as yet proved especially effective. While at the Wart- 
burg, Luther learned that Cardinal Albert of Mainz was continuing 
the old traffic at Halle. On the first of December, 1521, Luther in- 
formed His Grace that he was quite mistaken if he thought Luther 

You may think me out of the fray, but I will do what Christian love 
demands, without regard to the gates of hell, let alone unlearned popes, 
cardinals, and bishops. I beg you, show yourself not a wolf but a bishop. 
It has been made plain enough that indulgences are rubbish and lies. See 
what conflagration has come from a despised spark, so that now the pope 
himself is singed. The same God is still alive, and he can resist the 
Cardinal of Alainz though he be upheld by four emperors. This is the 
God who breaks the cedars of Lebanon and humbles the hardened Phar- 
aohs. You need not think Luther is dead. I will show the difference be- 
tween a bishop and a wolf. I demand an immediate answer. If you do not 
reply within two weeks, I will publish a tract against you. 

The cardinal replied that the abuses had already been suppressed. He 
confessed himself to be a stinking sinner, ready to receive correction. 
That was something. Yet Luther was not able to say while at the 
Wartburg that indulgences had been discontinued in his own parish 
of Wittenberg. Then during his absence in 1521 and 1522 one inno- 
vation followed another with disconcerting rapidity. Priests married, 
monks married, nuns married. Nuns and monks even married each 
other. The tonsured permitted their hair to grow. The wine in the 
mass was given to the laity, and they were suffered to take the elements 
into their own hands. Priests celebrated the sacrament without vest- 
ments, in plain clothes. Portions of the mass were recited in the German 
tongue. Masses for the dead were discontinued. Vigils ceased, vespers 
were altered, images were smashed. Meat was eaten on fast days. En- 
dowments were withdrawn by patrons. The enrollment in universities 
declined because students were no longer supported by ecclesiastical 
stipends. All this could not escape the eye of Hans and Gretel. Doc- 
trine might go over their heads, but liturgy was a part of their daily 
religious life. They realized now that the reformation meant some- 
thing, and this began to worry Luther. The glorious liberty of the sons 



of God was in danger of becoming a matter of clothes, diet, and hair- 
cuts. But he applauded the changes at the start. 

First came the marriage of priests. Luther had said in The Babylo- 
nian Captivity that the laws of men cannot annul the commands of 
God; and since God has ordained marriage, the union of a priest and 
his wife is a true and indissoluble union. In the Address to the Nobility 
he declared that a priest must have a housekeeper, and that to put man 
and woman thus together is like bringing fire to straw and expecting 
nothing to happen. Marriage should be free to priests, though the whole 
canon law go to pieces. Let there be an end of unchaste chastity. Lu- 
ther's advice was being put into practice. Three priests married in 
1521 and were arrested by Albert of Mainz. Luther sent him a warm 
protest. Albert consulted the University of Wittenberg. Carlstadt 
answered with a work on celibacy, in which he went so far as to assert 
not only that a priest might marry but that he must, and should also be 
the father of a family. For obligatory celibacy he would substitute ob- 
ligatory matrimony and paternity. And he got married himself. The 
girl was described as of a noble family, neither pretty nor rich, appear- 
ing to be about fifteen years of age. Carlstadt sent an announcement 
to the Elector. 

Most noble prince, I observe that in Scripture no estate is so highly 
lauded as marriage. I observe also that marriage is allowed to the clergy, 
and for lack of it many poor priests have suffered sorely in the dungeons 
of the Devil. Therefore if Almighty God permits, I am going to marry 
Anna Mochau on St. Sebastian's Eve, and I hope Your Grace approves. 

Luther did. "I am very pleased over Carlstadt's marriage," he wrote. 
"I know the girl." 

Yet he had no mind to do the like himself because he was not only 
a priest but also a monk. At first he was aghast when Carlstadt attacked 
also monastic celibacy. "Good heavens! " wrote Luther, "will our Wit- 
tenbergers give wives to monks? They won't give one to me!" But 
tinder the fiery preaching of Gabriel Zwilling the Augustinian monks 
began to leave the cloister. On November 30, fifteen withdrew. The 
prior reported to the Elector: 



It is being preached that no monk can be saved in a cowl, that cloisters 
are in the grip of the Devil, that monks should be expelled and cloisters 
demolished. Whether such teaching is grounded in the gospel I greatly 

But now should such monks be forced to go back? And if not, should 
they be allowed to marry? Melanchthon consulted Luther. "I wish I 
could talk this over with you," he replied 

The case of a monk seems to me to be different from that of a priest. 
The monk has voluntarily taken vows. You argue that a monastic vow 
is not binding because it is incapable of fulfillment* By that token you 
would abrogate all the divine precepts. You say that a vow entails servi- 
tude. Not necessarily. St. Bernard lived happily under his vows. The real 
question is not whether vows can be kept, but whether they have been 
enjoined by God. 

To find the answer Luther set himself to search the Scriptures. He 
was not long in making up his mind, and soon sent to Wittenberg some 
theses about vows. When they were read to the circle of the Witten- 
berg clergy and professors, Bugenhagen, priest at the Castle Church, 
pronounced the judgment, "These propositions will upset public in- 
stitutions as Luther's doctrine up to this point would not have done." 
The theses were shortly followed by a treatise On Monastic Vows. In 
a preface addressed to "my dearest father" Luther professed now to 
discern the hand of Providence in making him a monk against his par- 
ents' will in order that he might be able to testify from experience 
against monasticism. The monk's vow is unfounded in Scripture and 
in conflict with charity and liberty. "Marriage is good, virginity is 
better, but liberty is best." Monastic vows rest on the false assumption 
that there is a special calling, a vocation, to which superior Christians 
are invited to observe the counsels of perfection while ordinary Chris- 
tians fulfill only the commands; but there simply is no special religious 
vocation, declared Luther, since the call of God comes to each man at 
the common tasks. "This is the work," said Jonas, "which emptied 
the cloisters." Luther's own order in Wittenberg, the Augustinians, 
at a meeting in January, instead of disciplining the apostate monks, 



ruled that thereafter any member should be free to stay or leave as he 
might please. 


Next came the reform of the liturgy, which touched the common 
man more intimately because it altered his daily devotions. He was be- 
ing invited to drink the wine at the sacrament, to take the elements 
into his own hands, to commune without previous confession, to hear 
the words of institution in his own tongue, and to participate exten- 
sively in sacred song. 

Luther laid the theoretical groundwork for the most significant 
changes. His principle was that the mass is not a sacrifice but a thanks- 
giving to God and a communion with believers. It is not a sacrifice in 
the sense of placating God, because he does not need to be placated; 
and it is not an oblation in the sense of something offered, because man 
cannot offer to God, but only receive. What then should be done with 
such expressions in the mass as "this holy sacrifice," "this oblation," 
"these offerings"? In The Babylonian Captivity, Luther had inter- 
preted them figuratively, but at the Wartburg he came to the more 
drastic conclusion: "The words in the canon are plain; the words of 
Scripture are plain. Let the canon yield to the gospel." The liturgy 
then would have to be revised. 

A particular form of the mass rested exclusively upon its sacrificial 
character. This was the private mass for the benefit of departed spirits, 
for whom the priest offered a sacrifice; and since they could not pos- 
sibly be present, he communed alone. This form of the mass was called 
private because privately endowed. It was also privately conducted. 
Luther objected first to the principle of sacrifice and second to the 
absence of the congregation. In The Babylonian Captivity he had been 
willing to tolerate such masses as private devotions on the part of the 
priest, provided of course that they were conducted in a devotional 
spirit and not rattled through to complete the quota for the day. At 
the Wartburg he reached a more pronounced position. To Melanch- 
thon he wrote on the first of August, "I will never again celebrate a 
private mass in eternity." Luther concluded a tract on the abolition of 



private masses with an appeal to Frederick the Wise to emulate the 
crusade of Frederick Barbarossa for the liberation of the Holy 
Sepulchre. Let Frederick liberate the gospel at Wittenberg by abolish- 
ing all the masses which he had privately endowed. Incidentally, a staff 
of twenty-five priests was employed for the saying of such masses at 
the Castle Church. 

On the old question raised by the Hussites, whether the wine as 
well as the bread should be given to the laity, Luther and the Witten- 
bergers were agreed in desiring to restore the apostolic practice. As 
to fasting and confession prior to communion Luther was indiffer- 
ent. There was variance as to whether the priest should hold aloft the 
elements. Carlstadt viewed the act as the presentation of a sacrifice to 
be rejected, whereas Luther saw only a mark of reverence to be re- 


The agreement was certainly sufficient to warrant action, and 
Melanchthon made a beginning on September 29 by administering 
communion in both kinds to a few students in the parish church. 
In the Augustinian cloister Zwilling delivered impassioned pleas to 
the brothers to refuse to celebrate unless the mass was reformed. The 
prior responded that he would rather have no mass than to have it 
mutilated. Consequently the mass ceased in the Augustinian cloister on 
October 23. In the Castle Church on All Saints* Day, November 1, 
the very day for the exhibition of the relics and the dispensing of in- 
dulgences, Justus Jonas branded indulgences as rubbish and clamored 
for the abolition of vigils and private masses. In future he would re- 
fuse to celebrate unless communicants were present. Popular violence 
commenced. Students and townsmen so intimidated the old believers 
that the faithful Augustinians feared for their own saf ety and for that 
of their cloister. The elector was disturbed. As a prince he was re- 
sponsible for the public peace. As a Christian he was concerned for 
the true faith. He wished to be enlightened as to the meaning of Scrip- 
ture, and appointed a committee. But the committee could not agree. 
No group in Wittenberg could agree, neither the university, nor the 



Atigustinians, nor the chapter at the Castle Church. "What a mess we 
arc in/' said Spalatin, "with everybody doing something else." 

The old order argued that God would not have suffered his Church 
so long to be deceived. Changes should wait at least until unanimity 
had been achieved, and the clergy should not be molested. Frederick 
the Wise pointed out, moreover, to the innovators that masses were 
endowed; and if the masses ceased, the endowments would cease. He 
could not see how a priest could expect to get married, stop saying 
mass, and still draw his stipend. The alteration of the mass concerned 
all Christendom, he argued; and if a little town like Wittenberg 
could not make up its mind, the rest of the world would not be im- 
pressed. Above all, let there be no division and tumult. The Evangeli- 
cals replied by pointing to the example of Christ and the apostles, 
who, though but a handful, were not deterred from reform by the 
fear of tumult. As for the ancestors who endowed the masses, if they 
could return to life and receive better instruction, they would be 
glad to have their money used to further the faith in a better way. 
The old believers rebutted, "You need not think because you are a 
handful that therefore you are in the position of Christ and the apos- 

Luther's sympathies for the moment were with the handful, and 
he was distressed because events were moving too slowly. He had 
sent Spalatin the manuscripts of his tracts entitled On Monastic V&ws, 
On the Abolition of Private Masses, and A Blast Against the Arch- 
bishop of Mainz. None of them had appeared. Luther resolved to 
make a trip incognito to Wittenberg to find the reason why. 




ITH BEARD SUFFICIENT tO deceive hlS HlOther 

the exile from the Wartburg appeared on the 
streets of Wittenberg on the fourth of De- 
cember, 1521. He was immensely pleased with 
all that his associates had lately introduced by 
way of reform, but irate because his recent 
tracts had not been published. If Spalatin had 
withheld them from the printer, let him note 
that worse would replace them. Spalatin thereupon released the 
treatises on vows and private masses but still retained the blast against 
Albert, which never did appear. Luther let it be known in Witten- 
berg that he was contemplating a blast also against Frederick if he 
did not disperse his collection of relics and contribute to the poor 
fund all the gold and silver in which they were encased. At this 
moment Luther was distinctly for speeding up the reformation. 

But not by violence. The day before he arrived in Wittenberg 
there had been a riot. Students and townsfolk, with knives under their 
cloaks, invaded the parish church, snatched the mass books from the 
altar, and drove out the priests. Stones were thrown against those 
saying private devotions to the Virgin Mary. On the morrow, the 
very day of Luther's arrival, the Franciscans were intimidated. This 
was not the worst of it. Luther might perhaps have excused this tumult 
as a student prank, but on the journeys to and from the Wartburg 
he sensed among the people a revolutionary temper. He hastened, 
therefore, to bring out a warning against recourse to violence. 
"Remember," he warned, "that Antichrist, as Daniel said, is to be 



broken without the hand of man. Violence will only make him strong- 
er. Preach, pray, but do not fight. Not that all constraint is ruled 
out, but it must be exercised by the constituted authorities." 

But in the meantime at Wittenberg the constituted authority was 
inhibirive. Elector Frederick issued an order on December 19 in 
which he said that discussion might continue, but there could be no 
changes in the mass until unanimity was reached. Carlstadt thereupon 
undertook to defy the elector and announced that when his turn came 
to say mass at New Year's he would give communion in both kinds 
to the whole town. The elector interposed, but Carlstadt forestalled 
him by trading his turn for Christmas and by issuing the public 
invitation only the night before. The populace was stirred, and 
Christmas Eve was celebrated by rioting. The mob invaded the parish 
church, smashed the lamps, intimidated the priests, sang through 
the church, "My maid has lost her shoe," and then from the courtyard 
caterwauled against the choir. Finally they went to the Castle Church 
and as the priest was giving the benediction wished him pestilence 
and hell-fire. 


On Christmas Day 2,000 people assembled in the Castle Church 
a tbe whole town," said a chronicler. And it very nearly was, for the 
total population was only 2,500. Carlstadt officiated without vest- 
ments in a plain black robe. In his sermon he told the people that in 
preparation for the sacrament they had no need of fasting and 
confession. If they felt that they must first be absolved, then they 
lacked faith in the sacrament itself. Faith alone is needed, faith and 
heartfelt longing and deep contrition. "See how Christ makes you a 
sharer ia his blessedness if you believe. See how he has cleansed and 
hallowed you through his promise. Still better, see that Christ stands 
before yoo. He takes from you all your struggle and doubt, that you 
may know that through his word you are blessed." 

Then Carlstadt recited the mass in Latin, in very abbreviated f onn, 
omitting aU the passages on sacrifice. At the consecration and distri- 
butkm of tbe elements, both the bread and the wine, he passed from 



Latin into German. For the first time in their lives the 2,000 assembled 
people heard in their own tongue the words, "This is the cup of my 
blood of the new and eternal testament, spirit and secret of the faith, 
shed for you to the remission of sins." One of the communicants so 
trembled that he dropped the bread. Carlstadt told him to pick it up; 

rmDdpfloer/ubcr (b tmgleich wurl two ftraffir. 


With a very graphic illustration of the saying on the mote and the beam in 
the background. 

but he who had had the courage to come forward and take the sacred 
morsel into his own hand from the plate, when he saw it desecrated 
on the floor was so overcome by all the terror of sacrilege to the body 
of God that he could not bring himself to touch it again. 

Under Carlstadt's leading the town council at Wittenberg issued 
the first city ordinance of the Reformation. Mass was to be conducted 
about as Carlstadt had done it- Luther's ideas on social reform were 
implemented. Begging was forbidden. Those genuinely poor should 
be maintained from a common fund. Prostitutes should be banned. 
And then came quite a new point: images should be removed from 
the churches. 

The question of images, pictures, and statues of the saints and the 
Virgin, and crucifixes, had been greatly agitated during the preced- 
ing weeks, ^willing had led an iconoclastic riot, overturning altars 
and smashing images and pictures of the saints. The author of the 
idea was Carlstadt. He took his stand squarely upon Scripture: "Thou 



shalt act make unto thce any graven image, or any likeness of any 
thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that 
is in the water under the earth." Scripture was reinforced by his own 
experience. He had been so deeply attached to images as to be 
diverted by them from true worship. "God is a spirit" and must 
be worshiped only in spirit. Christ is a spirit, but the image of Christ 
is wood, silver, or gold. One who contemplates a crucifix is reminded 
only of the physical suffering of Christ rather than of his spiritual 

Coupled with this attack on art in religion went an attack also on 
music in religion. "Relegate organs, trumpets, and flutes to the 
theater," said Carlstadt. 

Better one heart-felt prayer than a thousand cantatas of the Psalms. The 
lascivious notes of the organ awaken thoughts of the world. When we 
should be meditating on the suffering of Christ, we are reminded of 
Pyramus aiid Thisbe. Or, if there is to be singing, let it be no more than 
a solo. 

While Wittenberg was thus convulsed by iconoclasm, three laymen 
arrived from the neighboring village of Zwickau, claiming to be 
prophets of the Lord and to have had intimate conversations with 
die Almighty. They had no need of the Bible but relied on the Spirit. 
If the Bible were important, God would have dropped it directly 
from heaven. They repudiated infant baptism and proclaimed the 
speedy erection of the kingdom of the godly through the slaughter 
of Ac ungodly, whether at the hands of the Turks or of the godly 
themselves. Melanchthon listened to them agape. He wrote to the 

I ctn scarcely tell you how deeply I am moved. But who shall judge 
them, other than Martin, I do not know. Since the gospel is at stake, ar- 
rangements should be made for them to meet with him. They wish it. 
I would not have written to you if the matter were not so important. 
We must beware lest we resist the Spirit of God, and also lest we be 
possessed of the Devil 



But such a disputation with Martin appeared dangerous for him and 
disturbing for Wittenberg. She had already enough on her plate, was 
the opinion of Spalatin. 

Luther in his letters rejected the prophets on religious grounds, be- 
cause they talked too glibly. 

Those who are expert in spiritual things have gone through the valley 
of the shadow. When these men talk of sweetness and of being transported 
to the third heaven, do not believe them. Divine Majesty does not speak 
directly to men. God is a consuming fire, and the dreams and visions of 
the saints are terrible. . . . Prove the spirits; and if you are not able to 
do so, then take the advice of Gamaliel and wait. 

In another letter he added: 

I am sure we can restrain these firebrands without the sword. I hope 
the Prince will not imbrue his hands in their blood. I see no reason why on 
their account I should come home. 

Frederick the Wise was harassed by one eruption after another. 
Next came a blow from the right. The noise of the doings at Witten- 
berg reached Duke George over the border, and the confessional 
cleavage coalesced with the ancient rivalry between the two houses 
of Saxony. Luther was soon able to complete his trinity of opposition 
as the pope, Duke George, and the DeviL At the moment the duke 
was the most active of the three. He was at the Diet of Niimberg and 
persuaded the estates to send both to Frederick the Wise and to the 
Bishop of Meissen, who had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Witten- 
berg region, the following instructions: 

We have heard that priests celebrate mass in lay habit, omitting essential 
portions. They consecrate the holy sacrament in German. The recipients 
are not required to have made prior confession. They take the elements 
into their own hands and in both kinds. The blood of our Lord is served 
not in a chalice but in a mug. The sacrament is given to children. Priests 
are dragged from the altars by force. Priests and monks marry, and the 
common people are incited to frivolity and offense. 



In response to this communication the Bishop of Meissen requested 
of Frederick the Wise permission to conduct a visitation throughout 
his domains, and Frederick consented, although making no promises 
to discipline offenders. Then on February 13 Frederick issued in- 
structions of his own to the university and to the chapter at the 
Castle Church. 

We have gone too fast. The common man has been incited to frivolity, 
and no one has been edified. We should have consideration for the weak. 
Images should be left until further notice. The question of begging 
should be canvassed. No essential portion of the mass should be omitted. 
Moot points should be discussed. Carlstadt should not preach any more, 

This document can scarcely be described as a complete abrogation 
of the reforms. Frederick simply called a halt and invited further 
consideration, but he did emphatically abrogate the city ordinance 
of January. If there were to be reforms, he was determined they 
should not be by towns but by territories, as in the later German 
pattern. Carlstadt submitted and agreed not to preach. Zwilling left 


But the town council resolved to defy the elector by inviting Martin 
Luther to come home. An invitation was sent to him in the name 
of "The Council and the entire City of Wittenberg." If the elector 
nullified their ordinance, then they would bring back the author 
of the whole movement. Probably they expected Luther to exert a 
moderating influence. Carlstadt and Zwilling were smoldering fire- 
brands. Melanchthon was in a dither, thought of leaving to escape 
the radicals, and frankly said, "The dam has broken, and I cannot 
sctm the waters." The council knew nowhere to look for leadership 
save fca the Wartburg, and without consulting or even informing 
the elector invited Luther to return. 

He was not unwilling to come, for he had said as early as December 
that he had no intention of remaining in hiding longer than Easter. 
He would stay until he had finished a volume of sermons and the 



translation of the New Testament. Then he proposed to turn to the 
translation of the Old Testament and to settle somewhere in the 
neighborhood of Wittenberg in order that he might engage the col- 
laboration of colleagues better versed than he in Hebrew. At the time 
these scholarly concerns motivated him rather than any desire to 
take the wheel at Wittenberg. 
But when a direct invitation 
came from the town and con- 
gregation, that was to him a 
call from God. 

Luther had the courtesy to 
notify the elector of his inten- 
tion. Frederick replied that he 
realized he had perhaps not 
done enough. But what should 
he do? He did not wish to go 
counter to the will of God, nor 
to provoke disorder. The Diet 
of Niirnberg and the Bishop of 
Meissen threatened intervention. 
If Luther should return and the 
pope and the emperor should 
step in to harm him, the elector 
would take it amiss. But if the elector should resist, there would be 
great disturbance in the land. So far as his person was concerned, 
the elector was prepared to suffer, but he would like to know for 
what. If he knew that the cross was from God, he would bear at; 
but at Wittenberg no one knew who was the cook and who the 
waiter, A new meeting of the diet would take place soon. In the 
meantime let Luther lie low. Time might change things greatly. 

Luther answered: 

I wrote for your sake, not for mine. I was disturbed that the gospel 
was brought into disrepute at Wittenberg. If I were not sure that the 
gospel is on our side, I would have given up. All the sorrow I have had 
is nothing compared to this. I would gladly have paid for this with my 




life, for we can answer neither to God nor to the world for what has 
happened. The Devil is at work in this. As for myself, my gospel is not 
from men. Concessions bring only contempt. I cannot yield an inch to 
the Devil, I have done enough for Your Grace by staying in hiding for 
a year. I did not do it through cowardice. The Devil knows I would have 
gone into Worms though there were as many devils as tiles on the roo 
and I would ride into Leipzig novr, though it rained Duke Georges for 
nine days. 

I would have you know that I come to Wittenberg 'fcdth a higher 
protection than that of Your Grace. I dq not ask you to protect me. I 
will protect you more than you will protect me. If I thought you would 
protect me, I would not come. This is not a case for the sword but for 
God, and since you are weak in the faith you cannot protect me. You ask 
what you should do, and think you have done too little. I say you have 
done too much, and you should do nothing but leave it to God. You are 
excused if I am captured or killed. As a prince you should obey the 
emperor and offer no resistance. No one should use force except the 
erne who is ordained to use it. Otherwise there is rebellion against God. 
But I hope you will not act as my accuser. If you leave the door open, 
that is enough. If they try to* make you do more than that, I will then 
tell you what to do. If Your Grace had eyes, you would see the glory of 


The return to Wittenberg was incomparably brave. Never before 
had Luther stood in such peril. At the interview with Cajetan and at 
Worms he had not been under the ban of Church and empire, and 
Frederick had been ready to provide asylum. But this time Luther 
was made to know that he could count on no protection in case of 
extradition by the diet or the emperor. At Worms there had been 
a second line of defense in Sickingen, Hutten, and the knights, 
This wall was fast crumbling. Sickingen had had the indiscretion 
after Worms to embark on an adventure designed to arrest the doom 
of German knighthood at the expense of the territorial princes and 
bishops. The attack was focused on the prince bishop, Richard of 
Greiffenklau, elector and archbishop of Trier. A number of knights 
who had earlier proffered help to Luther joined Sickingen, but his 
campaign was doomed at the outset, because victims of his former 



depredations raUIed to Trier and corralled Sickingen in one of his 
own castles, where he died of wounds. Hutten had been unable to 
accompany him on this campaign because he was ill of syphilis at 
the Ebernburg. But in intervals of health he had engaged in a foray 
on his own, a priests' war he called it, consisting mainly in the sacking 
of cloisters. When Sickingen failed, he fled to Switzerland to sizzle 
out his meteoric career on an island of Lake Zurich. The knights 
who had shared in Sickingen's exploit suffered the confiscation of their 
estates. Had Luther relied upon them, they would have proved a 
broken reed. But he had long since resolved to trust only to the Lord 
of Hosts, who does not always deliver his children from the mouth 
of the lion. 

A detail of Luther's homeward journey is recorded by a Swiss 
chronicler who apologetically introduced into a cryptic history of 
die rimes a leisurely description of an experience of his own when 
with a companion on the way to Wittenberg he pulled up late ono 
night out of the storm at the portal of the Black Bear Inn of a 
Thuringian village. The host brought the bedraggled travelers into 
a room where sat a knight with a bushy black beard clad in a scarlet 
cloak and woolen tights, his hands resting on the hilt of a sword 
as he engaged in reading. The knight rose and hospitably invited the 
muddy wayfarers to sit and share with him a glass. They noticed 
that his book was in Hebrew. They asked him whether he knew 
if Luther were in Wittenberg. "I know quite positively that he is 
not," said he, "but he will be." Then he inquired what the Swiss 
thought of Luther. The host, observing that the pair were well dis- 
posed to the reformer, confided to one that the knight was Luther 
himself. The Swiss could not believe his ears, thought he must have 
mistaken the name for Hutten. On parting the next morning they let 
the knight know that they took him for Hutten. "No, he is Luther," 
interposed the host. The knight kughed. "You take me for Hutten. 
He takes me for Luther. Maybe I am the Devil." Within a week they 
were to meet him again in Wittenberg. 

Luther's first concern there was to restore confidence and order. 
With stalwart presence and mellifluous voice he mounted the pulpit 



to preach patience, charity, and consideration for the weak. He 
reminded his hearers that no man can die for another, no man can 
believe for another, no man can answer for another. Therefore every 
man should be fully persuaded in his own mind. No one can be 
intimidated into belief. The violence of those who demolish altars, 
smash images, and drag priests by the hair was to Luther a greater 
blow than any ever dealt him by the papacy. He was beginning to 
realize that perhaps after all he was closer to Rome than to his own 
sectaries. He was deeply cut because the predictions of his assailants 
that we would be the occasion of "division, war, and insurrection" 
were being all too abundantly fulfilled. He pleaded: 

Give men time. I took three years of constant study, reflection, and 
discussion to arrive where I now am, and can the common man, untutored 
in such matters, be expected to move the same distance in three months? 
Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which 
is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then pro- 
hibit wine and abolish women? The sun, the moon, and stars have been 
worshiped. Shall we then pluck them out of the sky? Such haste and 
violence betray a lack of confidence in God. See how much he has been 
able to accomplish through me, though I did no more than pray and 
preach. The Word did it all. Had I wished I might have started a confla- 
gration at Worms. But while I sat still and drank beer with Philip and 
Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow. 

In response to these appeals Zwilling agreed to give up celebrating 
the Lord's Supper with feathers in his beret, and Luther cordially 
recommended him to a pastorate at Zwickau, the town from which 
tiie prophets had come. Carlstadt took over a congregation in the 
neighboring Qrlamunde. Wittenberg was in hand. 

Luther then turned to deal with the elector, who desired from him 
a statement to be submitted to the Diet at Niirnberg, exculpating 
the prince from any complicity in the return from the Wartburg. 
Luther gladly complied but in the course of the letter remarked 
that things are settled differently in heaven than in Niirnberg. 
Frederick suggested that the words "on earth" be substituted for 
"in Niirnberg." Luther again complied. 




XTERNALLY speaking, Luther had reached the 
turning point of his career. The leader of the 
opposition was called to be the head of the 
government, albeit in a very restricted area. 
The demolisher was summoned to build. The 
change of course was not absolute because he 
had been constructive all along, and to the 
end he never ceased to flay the papacy. Never- 
theless the change was vast between the role of railing against "the 
execrable bull of Antichrist" and that of providing a new pattern 
of Church, state, and society, a new constitution for the Church, a 
new liturgy, and a new Scripture in the vernacular. 

In the accomplishment of this task there were two considerations. 
The first had to do with principles which Luther sought to realize 
in the concrete, and the second with the people who constituted the 
field in which these ideas were to be realized. Luther's views were 
for the most part already mature by the time of his return to Witten- 
berg. Controversy was to sharpen the emphases. Practical experience 
dictated the lines of advance or retrenchment, while long years in 
the pulpit and classroom afforded occasion for copious illustration. 

Luther's principles in religion and ethics alike must constantly be 
borne in mind if he is not at times to appear unintelligible and even 
petty. The primary consideration with him was always the pre- 
eminence of religion. Into a society where the lesser breed were given 
to gaming, roistering, and wenching the Diet of Worms was called 
a veritable Venusberg at a time when the choicer sort were glorying 



in the accomplishments of man, strode this Luther, entranced by the 
song of angels, stunned by the wrath of God, speechless before the 
wonder of creation, lyrical over the divine mercy, a man aflame with 
God. For such a person there was no question which mattered much 
save this: How do I stand before God? Luther would never shirk 
a mundane task such as exhorting the elector to repair the city wall 
to keep the peasants' pigs from rooting in the villagers' gardens, but 
he was never supremely concerned about pigs, gardens, walls, cities, 
princes, or any and ail of the blessings and nuisances of this mortal 
life. The ultimate problem was always God and man's relationship 
to God. For this reason political and social forms were to him a 
matter of comparative indifference. Whatever would foster the 
understanding, dissemination, and practice of God's Word should 
be encouraged, and whatever impeded must be opposed. This is why 
it is futile to inquire whether Luther was a democrat, aristocrat, 
autocrat, or anything else. Religion was for him the chief end of man, 
and all else peripheral. 

And the religion which he had in mind was of course the Christian 
religion. Everyone in his age would have said that, if for no other 
reason than out of national or European pride. But Luther so spoke 
because he had experienced a sheer impasse in any other approach 
to God than through his own self -disclosure in Jesus Christ. "No other 
foundation is laid than has been kid in Jesus Christ our Lord." 


Nature cannot reveal God. Nature is indeed very wonderful, 
and every particle of creation reveals the handiwork of God, if one 
has the eyes to see. But that is precisely the difficulty. If one already 
believes in the beneficence of God, then one is overcome with amaze- 
ment and joy at the trembling of the dawn when night is not yet 
day and day is not night but light imperceptibly dispels darkness. 
How amazing are the clouds sustained without pillars and the firma- 
ment of heaven upheld without columns! How fair are the birds 
of heaven and the lilies of the field! "If thou couldst understand a 
single grain of wheat, thou wouldst die for wonder." God is in all 



this. He is in every creature, inwardly and outwardly, through and 
through, over and under, behind and before, so that nothing can be 
more inward and hidden in any creature than God. "In him we live, 
and move, and have our being." Without him is naught. God fills all 
the world, but by the world he is not contained. "Whither shall I flee 
from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I 
make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." But who sees all this? 
Only faith and spirit. The trouble with Erasmus is that he is not 
stupefied with wonder at the child in the womb. He does not con- 
template marriage with reverent amazement, nor praise and thank 
God for the marvel of a flower or the bursting of a peach stone by the 
swelling seed. He beholds these wonders like a cow staring at a new 
door. The deficiency of faith is made evident by a lack of wonder, 
for nature is a revelation only to those to whom God has already 
been revealed. 

It is no better with history, which also cannot reveal God, for the 
whole of history appears at first glance to be nothing but a commentary 
on the text, "He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and 
exalted them of low degree." God suffers the mighty empires to strut 
for a time upon the stage Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. 
Then when each becomes too overweening, God places the sword 
in the hand of another and releases him to cast down the braggart, 
only in turn after his swaggering to be brought low. Here again we 
meet with an Augustinian theme, save that for Augustine history 
is an illustration of man's lust for domination and of the justice of 
God in abasing the arrogant. But Luther wonders whether God is 
amusing himself with a puppet show. 

Even more disconcerting is the recognition that all too often God 
does not cast down the mighty and does not exalt those of low degree. 
But he leaves them in their squalor, unrequited and unavenged. 
Throughout history it is the saints who are despised and rejected, 
maltreated, abused, and trodden under the feet of man. Joseph, for 
example, for no adequate reason was seized by his brethren, cast 
into the well, sold to the Ishmaelites, and carried as a slave into Egypt. 
And there precisely because he was honorable he was besmirched with 



the accusation of adultery and thrown into prison. And the Virgin 
Mary, after being informed by the angel Gabriel that she was to be 
the mother of the Most High, had to suffer the suspicion of her own 
husband. Joseph's situation is understandable, for they had not yet 
come together, and she had been three months absent with her cousin 
Elisabeth. He could not well put a good construction upon her con- 
dition until the angel instructed him in a dream. But why did God 
wait to disabuse him until after Mary had been put to shame? 

Some of the afflictions which fall upon the just were, in Luther's 
view, the work of the Devil, and here he was following the familiar 
Augustinian dualism of the eternal conflict between the City of God 
and the earthly city through which Satan operates. Luther could in 
this way take comfort in tumult because the Devil is bound to assail 
the faith, and tumult is the proof that faith is present and under 
attack. But it is not always the Devil who is responsible. God is a 
God who works through contraries. The Virgin had to be put to 
shame before she could come into glory. Joseph had to be humiliated 
by false accusation before he could become the prime minister and 
savior of Egypt. In such moments God appears hidden. Joseph must 
have had a fearful struggle. He would say, "Oh, if I could only get 
back to my father," and then he would grip himself and say, "Hold 
fast. If only I could find the way out of this dungeon. Hold fast. 
What if I die in disgrace in this prison? Hold fast." Such alternations 
of anguish and consolation assailed him until he was able to discern 
the hand of God. 

There is no escaping from the horrors of darkness because God 
is such a God "that before he can be God he must first appear to be 
the Devil. We cannot reach heaven until we first descend into hell. 
We cannot be God's children unless first we are the Devil's children. 
Again before the world can be seen to be a lie it must first appear 
to be the truth." 

It must seem so. Yet God has not really deserted us, but he is hidden, 
and by direct searching we cannot find him out. Why God wishes 
to hide himself from us we do not know; but this we know: our 
nature cannot attain unto his majesty. "David did not speak with the 



absolute God, whom we must^fear if we would not perish, because 
human nature and the absolute God are implacable enemies. And it 
cannot but be that human nature should be oppressed by such 
majesty. Therefore David does not talk with the absolute God but 
with God clothed and mantled in the Word." 

Neither can philosophy reveal God. In making this assertion Luther 
was in part echoing the language of the late scholastics, on whose 
works he had been reared. The Occamists had wrecked the synthesis 
of Thomas Aquinas whereby nature and reason lead through un- 
broken stages to grace and revelation. Instead between nature and 
grace, between reason and revelation, these theologies introduced 
a great gulf. So much so indeed that philosophy and theology were 
compelled to resort to two different kinds of logic and even two 
different varieties of arithmetic. The classic illustration was the doc- 
trine of the Trinity, which asserts that three persons are one God. 
According to human arithmetic this is preposterous, and yet accord- 
ing to divine arithmetic it must be believed. Luther at this point 
outdid his teachers and asserted that whereas by the standard of human 
reason two and five equal seven, yet if God should declare them to 
be eight, one must believe against reason and against feeling. All this 
Luther could say with his teachers, but such conundrums gave him 
little concern. 

The inadequacy of philosophy was to him the more apparent and 
the more depressing at those points where his master, St. Augustine, 
had accentuated the cleavage between the natural man and the re- 
deemed man, and had thereby widened at the same time the breach 
between natural and revealed religion. Augustine freely conceded 
that in some respects man still resembles God, in whose image he was 
created. The fall of Adam did not obliterate all the vestiges, but their 
meaning is unintelligible to one who is not acquainted with the 
original pattern. The late scholastics heightened the point that as 
cow tracks in a meadow bespeak a cow only to one who has 
previously seen a cow, so the trinitarian structure of man, with 
intellect, memory, and will, bespeaks the trinitarian structure of 
God only to one to whom the doctrine has already been revealed. 



Luther took over this whole manner of thinking and applied 
it in a much more drastic and poignant way, because for him the prob- 
lems were not so much metaphysical as religious. The crucial point was 
not as to the structure of God but as to the character of God. His 
structure remains an insoluble mystery into which we were wiser 
not to pry, but we must ask, Is he good? Is he just? Is he good to me? 
Augustine's heart was no longer restless after he had received the 
yoke that is easy. But Luther never ceased to revolve these old 
tormenting queries. 


For his answer he was driven to seek God where he has chosen 
to make himself known, namely in the flesh of Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is the sole revealer of God. 

The prophet Isaiah said, "The people that walked in darkness have 
seen a great light." Don't you think that this is an inexpressible light 
which enables us to see the heart of God and the depth of the Godhead? 
And that we may also see the thoughts of the Devil and what sin is and 
how to be freed from it and what death is and how to be delivered. And 
what man is, and the world, and how to conduct oneself in it. No one 
before was sure what God is or whether there are devils, what sin and 
death are, let alone how to be delivered. This is all the work of Christ, 
and in this passage he is called Mighty and Wonderful. 

He is the sole redeemer of man from the thralldona of sin and the gates 
of death. He alone is the hope of any enduring society upon earth. Where 
men do not know Bethlehem's babe they rave and rage and strive. The 
angels proclaimed peace on earth, and so shall it be to those who know 
and receive this Babe. For what is it like where Jesus Christ is not? What 
is the world if not a perfect hell with nothing but lying, cheating, glut- 
tony, guzzling, lechery, brawling, and murder. That is the very Devil 
himself. There is no kindliness nor honor. No one is sure of another. One 
must be as distrustful of friends as of enemies, and sometimes more. This 
is the kingdom of the world where the Devil reigns and rules. But the 
angels show in their song that those who know and accept the Child Jesus 
not only give honor to God but treat their fellow men as if they were 
gods, with peaceable demeanor, glad to help and counsel any man. They 
are free from envy and wrangling, for the Christian way is quiet and 



friendly in peace and brotherly love where each gladly does the best 
he can for another. 

All then would seem to be simple. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, 
and thou shalt be saved," but faith in Christ is far from simple and 
easy because he is an astounding king, who, instead of defending his 
people, deserts them. Whom he would save he must first make a 
despairing sinner. Whom he would make wise he must first turn 
into a fool. Whom he would make alive he must first kill. Whom he 
would bring to honor he must first bring into dishonor. He is a strange 
king who is nearest when he is far and farthest when he is near. 

The attempt of Erasmus to make Christianity simple and easy 
was to Luther utterly vain because Christ must so deeply offend. 
Man's corruption must be assailed before ever his eyes can be opened. 
One of Luther's students recorded: 

On Christmas eve of 1538 Dr. Martin Luther was very jocund. All his 
words and songs and thoughts were of the incarnation of our Lord. Then 
with a sigh he said, "Oh, we poor men that we should be so cold and 
indifferent to this great joy which has been given us. This indeed is the 
greatest gift, which far exceeds all else that God has created. And we 
believe so feebly even though the angels proclaim and preach and sing, 
and their song is fair and sums up the whole Christian religion, for 'glory 
to God in the highest' is the very heart of worship. This they wish for 
us and bring to us in Christ. For the world, since Adam's fall, knows 
neither God nor his creatures. Oh, what fine, fair, happy thoughts would 
man have had were he not fallen! How he would have meditated upon 
God in all creatures, that he should see in the smallest and meanest flower 
God's omnipotent wisdom and goodness! Every tree and branch would 
have been more esteemed than if it were gold or silver. And properly con- 
sidered every green tree is lovelier than gold and silver. Surely the contem- 
plation of the whole creation, and especially of the simplest grasses of the 
fields and the adornment of the earth, proves that our Lord God is an 
artist like unto none. Adam and his children would have gloried in all 
this, but now since the pitiable fall the Creator is dishonored and reviled. 
That is why the dear angels summon fallen men once more to faith in 
Christ and to love that they may give to God alone the honor and may 
dwell in this life in peace with God and one another." 



The reason why faith is so hard and reason so inadequate is a prob- 
lem far deeper than logic. Luther often railed at reason, and he has 
been portrayed in consequence as a complete irrationalist in religion. 
This is quite to mistake his meaning. Reason in the sense of logic he 
employed to the uttermost limits. At Worms and often elsewhere 
he asked to be instructed from Scripture and reason. In this sense reason 
meant logical deduction from known premises; and when Luther 
railed against the harlot reason, he meant something else. Common 
sense is perhaps a better translation. He had in mind the way in which 
man ordinarily behaves, feels, and thinks. It is not what God says 
that is a foreign tongue, but what God does that is utterly incom- 

When I am told that God became man, I can follow the idea, but I 
just do not understand what it means. For what man, if left to his natural 
promptings, if he were God, would humble himself to lie in the feedbox 
of a donkey or to hang upon a cross? God laid upon Christ the iniquities 
of us all. 

This is that ineffable and infinite mercy of God which the slender 
capacity of man's heart cannot comprehend and much less utter that 
unfathomable depth and burning zeal of God's love toward us. And 
truly the magnitude of God's mercy engenders in us not only a hardness 
to believe but also incredulity itself. For I hear not only that the omnipo- 
tent God, the creator and maker of all things, is good and merciful, but 
also that the Supreme Majesty was so concerned for me, a lost sinner, a 
son of wrath and of everlasting death, that he spared not his own Son but 
delivered him to the most ignominious death, that, hanging between two 
thieves, he might be made a curse and sin for me, a cursed sinner, that 
I might be made just, blessed, a son and heir of God. Who can sufficiently 
declare this exceeding great goodness of God? Therefore the holy 
Scripture speaks of far other than philosophical or political matters, namely 
of the unspeakable and utterly divine gifts, which far surpass the capacity 
both of men and of angels. 

In God alone can man ever find peace. God can be known only 
through Christ, but how lay hold on Christ when his ways are like- 
wise so incredible? The answer is not by sight but by faith which 



walks gaily into the darkness. Yet once again, how shall one come by; 
this faith? It is a gift of God. By no act of will can it be induced, 


No, but man is not left entirely without recourse. He can expose 
himself to those channels of self-disclosure which God has ordained. 
They are all summed up in the Word. It is not to be equated with 
Scripture nor with the sacraments, yet it operates through them and 
not apart from them. The Word is not the Bible as a written book be- 
cause "the gospel is really not that which is contained in books and 
composed in letters, but rather an oral preaching and a living word, a 
voice which resounds throughout the whole world and is publicly 
proclaimed." This Word must be heard. This Word must be pon- 
dered. "Not through thought, wisdom, and will does the faith of 
Christ arise in us, but through an incomprehensible and hidden oper- 
ation of the Spirit, which is given by faith in Christ only at the hearing 
of the Word and without any other work of ours." More, too, than 
mere reading is required. "No one is taught through much reading and 
thinking. There is a much higher school where one learns God's Word. 
One must go into the wilderness. Then Christ comes and one becomes 
able to judge the world." 

Likewise faith is given to those who avail themselves of those out- 
ward rites which again God has ordained as organs of revelation, the 

For although he is everywhere and in all creatures and I may find him 
in stone, fire, water, or rope, since he is assuredly there, yet he does not 
wish me to seek him apart from the Word, that I should throw myself 
into fire or water or hang myself with a rope. He is everywhere, but 
he does not desire that you should seek everywhere but only where the 
Word is. There if you seek him you will truly find, namely in the Word. 
These people do not know and see who say that it doesn't make sense 
that Christ should be in bread and wine. Of course Christ is with me in 
prison and the martyr's death, else where should I be? He is truly present 
there with the Word, yet not in the same sense as in the sacrament, be- 
caxise he has attached his body and blood to the Word and in bread and 
wine is bodily to be received. 



These were Luther's religious principles: that religion is paramount, 
that Christianity is the sole true religion to be apprehended by faith 
channeled through Scripture, preaching, and sacrament. 

The practical deductions from such a view are obvious. All insti- 
tutions must accord to religion the right of way. The study of Scrip- 
ture must be cultivated in church and school. In church the pulpit and 
the altar must each sustain the other. 

Still further consequences of a less tangible sort were implicit. If 
religion is so central, then all human relations must be conditioned by 
it. Alliances, friendships, and matings will be secure only if grounded 
in a common faith. Contemporaries were sometimes appalled that 
Luther would disrupt human relations or churchly unities over a 
single point of doctrine. To which he replied that he might as well be 
told it was unreasonable to sever friendship over the single point of 
strangling his wife or child. To deny God in one point is to attack God 
in all. 

Again the exclusiveness which Luther assigned to Christianity was 
bound to entail a sentence of rejection upon other religions such as 
Judaism. He might or he might not be charitable to the worshipers of 
false gods, but their error he could never condone. Neither could he 
feel leniently disposed toward those who disparaged or in his judg- 
ment misinterpreted the Scripture and the sacraments. 


In the field of morals many felt that his preoccupation with re- 
ligion was dangerous. Particularly his insistence that upright conduct 
constitutes no claim upon God was believed to undercut the most 
potent motive for good behavior. The same retort was given to Lu- 
ther as to Paul. If we are saved not by merit but by mercy, "let us 
then sin that grace may abound/' Both Paul and Luther answered, 
"God forbid." And anyone who had followed Luther closely would 
have known that he was far from indifferent to morality. Neverthe- 
less the charge was not altogether perverse. Luther did say things at 
times which emphatically sounded subversive to morals. The classic 
example is the notorious pecca fortitcr, "Sin for all you are worth. 



God can forgive only a lusty sinner." To make this the epitome of 
Luther's ethic is grossly unfair because it was a piece of uproarious 
chaffing of the anemic Melanchthon, who was in a dither over scruples 
of conscience. Luther's counsel was essentially the same as that given 
to him by Staupitz, who told him that before coming so frequently 
to the confessional he should go out and commit a real sin like parri- 
cide. Staupitz was certainly not advising Luther to murder his father, 
and Luther well knew that his jest would not induce the impeccable 
Melanchthon to jettison the Ten Commandments. Luther was saying 
merely that it might do him good for once to spoil his record. 

This is a point which Luther did make at times, that one sin is needed 
as medicine to cure another. An unblemished record engenders the 
worst of all sins, pride. Hence a failure now and then is conducive 
to humility. But the only sins which Luther actually recommended 
as record spoilers were a little overeating, overdrinking, and oversleep- 
ing. Such controlled excesses might be utilized as the antidote to ar- 

He did say something else with an unethical ring, however, namely, 
that good works without faith "are idle, damnable sins." Erasmus was 
horrified to hear integrity and decency so stigmatized. But Luther 
never meant to say that from the social point of view decency is no 
better than indecency. What he meant was that the decency of the 
man who behaves himself simply for fear of damaging his reputation 
is in the eyes of God an idle, damnable sin, and far worse than the in- 
decency of the contrite offender. Luther's statement is nothing more 
than a characteristically paradoxical version of the parable of the 
penitent publican. 

But perhaps the deepest menace of Luther to morals lay in his 
rescue of morals. He would suffer no attenuation of the appalling 
demands of the New Testament. Christ said, "Give away your cloak, 
take no thought for the morrow, when struck turn the other cheek, 
sell all and give to the poor, forsake father and mother, wife and 
child." The Catholic Church of the Middle Ages had several devices 
for attenuating the inexorable. One was to make a distinction between 
Christians and to assign only to heroic souls the more arduous injunc- 



tions of the gospel. The counsels of perfection were consigned to 
monasticism. Luther closed this door by abolishing monasticism. An- 
other distinction was between the continuous and the customary. 
Strenuous Christians should love God and the neighbor uninterrupted- 
ly, but ordinary Christians only ordinarily. Luther was scornful of 
all such casuistry; and when reminded that without it the precepts 
of the gospel are impossible, he would retort, "Of course they are. 
God commands the impossible." But then comes again the old ques- 
tion, If the goal cannot be reached, why make the effort? 

Here one must be clear as to precisely how much Luther meant by 
calling the goal unattainable. He very clearly meant that the noblest 
human achievement will fall short in the eyes of God. All men are 
sinners. But they are not for that reason all rascals. A certain level of 
morality is not out of reach. Even the Jews, the Turks, and the heathen 
are able to keep the natural law embodied in the Ten Commandments. 

"Thou shalt not steal" should be placed by the miller on his sack, the 
baker on his bread, the shoemaker on his last, the tailor on his cloth, and 
the carpenter on his ax. 

Temptations of course cannot be avoided, but because we cannot pre- 
vent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we 
should let them nest in our hair. 

There is then a wide basis for genuine moral conduct even apart from 

But once more the danger to ethics arises because all this is not 
enough. God demands not only acts but attitudes. He is like the 
mother who asks her daughter to cook or to milk the cow. The daugh- 
ter may comply gaily or grudgingly. Not only does God require 
that we refrain from adultery, but he exacts purity of thought and 
restraint within marriage. These are the standards to which we cannot 
attain. "A horse can be controlled with a golden bit, but who can con- 
trol himself at those points where he is vitally touched?" Even our 
very quest for God is a disguised form of self-seeking. The pursuit 
of perfection is all the more hopeless because the goal is recessive. 
Every act of goodness opens the door for another; and if we do not 



enter in, we have failed. Hence all righteousness of the moment is sin 
with respect to that which must be added in the following instant. 
Even more disconcerting is the discovery that we are guilty of sins 
of which we are not aware. Luther had learned in the confessional the 
difficulty of remembering or recognizing his shortcomings. The very 
recognition that we are sinners is an act of faith. "By faith alone it 
must be believed that we are sinners, and indeed more often than not 
we seem to know nothing against ourselves. Wherefore we must 
stand by God's judgment and believe his words by which he calls us 


Once again Luther's critics arise to inquire whether if man in the 
end has no standing with God he should make the effort to be good. 
Luther's answer is that morality must be grounded somewhere else 
than in self-help and the quest for reward. The paradox is that God 
must destroy in us all illusions of righteousness before he can make 
us righteous. First we must relinquish all claim to goodness. The way 
to eliminate feelings of guilt is to admit guilt. Then there is some hope 
for us. "We are sinners and at the same time righteous" which is to 
say that however bad we are, there is a power at work in us which 
can and will make something out of us. 

This is wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves. 
I am justified and acceptable to God, although there are in me sin, un- 
righteousness, and horror of death. Yet I must look elsewhere and see 
no sin. This is wonderful, not to see what I see, not to feel what I feel. 
Before my eyes I see a gulden, or a sword, or a fire, and I must say, "There 
is no gulden, no sword, no fire." The forgiveness of sins is like this. 

And the effect of it is that the forgiven, unpretentious sinner has 
vastly more potentialities than the proud saint. 

The righteousness of the sinner is no fiction. It must and it will 
produce good works, but they can never be good if done for their 
own sake. They must spring from the fount of the new man. "Good 
works do not make a man good, but a good man does good works." 




Luther variously described the ground of goodness. Sometimes he 
would say that all morality is gratitude. It is the irrepressible expres- 
sion of thankfulness for food and raiment, for earth and sky, and for 
the inestimable gift of redemption. Again morality is the fruit of the 
spirit dwelling in the heart of the Christian. Or morality is the behavior 
becoming the nature of one united with Christ as the bride with the 
bridegroom. As there is no need to tell lovers what to do and say, so is 
there no need for any rules to those who are in love with Christ. The 
only word that covers all this is faith. It removes all the inhibitions 
arising from worry and sets man in such a relationship to God and 
Christ that all else will come of itself. 

Nowhere does Luther set forth his views in more rugged and glow- 
ing \\jords than in the canticle On the 'Freedom of the Christian Man. 

The soul which with a firm faith cleaves to the promises of God is 
united with them, absorbed by them, penetrated, saturated, inebriated by 
their power. If the touch of Christ was healing, how much more does that 
most tender touch in the spirit, that absorption in the Word convey to 
the soul all the qualities of the Word so that it becomes trustworthy, 
peaceable, free, full of every good, a true child of God. From this we see 
very easily why faith can do so much and no good work is like unto it, 
for no good work comes from God's Word like faith. No good work can 
be within the soul, but the Word and faith reign there. What the Word 
is that the soul is, as iron becomes fire-red through union with the flame. 
Plainly then faith is enough for the Christian man. He has no need for 
works to be made just. Then is he free from the law. 

But he is not therefore to be lazy or loose. Good works do not make 
a man good, but a good man does good works. A bishop is not a bishop be- 
cause he consecrates a church, but he consecrates a church because he is 
a bishop. Unless a man is already a believer and a Christian, his works have 
no value at all. They are foolish, idle, damnable sins, because when good 
works are brought forward as ground for justification, they are no longer 
good. Understand that we do not reject good works, but praise them 
highly. The apostle Paul said, "Let this mind be in you which was 
also in Christ Jesus, who being on an equality with God emptied himself, 
taking the form of a servant, and becoming obedient unto death." Paul 
means that when Christ was fully in the form of God, abounding in all 
things, so that he had no need of any work or any suffering to be saved, 



he was not puffed up, did not arrogate to himself power, but rather in 
suffering, working, enduring, and dying made himself like other men, 
as if he needed all things and were not in the form of God. All this he did 
to serve us. When God in his sheer mercy and without any merit of mine 
has given me such unspeakable riches, shall I not then freely, joyously, 
wholeheartedly, unprompted do everything that I know will please him? 
I will give myself as a sort of Christ to my neighbor as Christ gave him- 
self for me. 

This is the word which ought to be placarded as the epitome of 
Luther's ethic, that a Christian must be a Christ to his neighbor. Lu- 
ther goes on to explain what this entails. 

I must even take to myself the sins of others as Christ took mine to 
himself. Thus we see that the Christian man lives not to himself but to 
Christ and his neighbor through love. By faith he rises above himself to 
God and from God goes below himself in love and remains always in 
God and in love. 

Where will one find a nobler restoration of ethics, and where will one 
find anything more devastating to ethics? The Christian man is so to 
identify himself with his neighbor as to take to himself sins that he 
has not personally committed. The parents assume the sins of the 
children, the citizens the sins of the state. Luther's scorn was directed 
against making the chief end of man to keep the record clean. The 
Christian, like Christ, must in some sense become sin with and for 
the sinner, and like Christ share in the alienation of those who through 
sin are separated from God. 




HE REBUILDING of the walls of Jerusalem by 
Ezra and Nehemiah is quaintly illustrated in 
Luther's German Bible by a woodcut in which 
the theme is from the Old Testament and the 
scenery from Saxony. The rebuilders of the 
walls are the Jews returned from Babylon. 
The stones, mortar, logs, saws, wheelbarrows, 
inclined planes, and derricks are precisely 
those employed to repair the walls of Wittenberg. Very similar was 
Luther's application of Christian principles to the reconstruction of 
society. The pre-eminence of religion, the sole sufficiency of Chris- 
tianity, the obligation of the Christian to be a Christ to the neighbor 
these were the principles. The applications were conservative. Lu- 
ther came not to destroy, but to fulfill, and against all misconception 
of his teaching sought to make plain that the traditional Christian 
ethic remained intact. The Sermon on Good Works is built, not 
around the Beatitudes, but around the Ten Commandments, the core 
of the law of Moses equated with the law of nature. Like those before 
him Luther extended the command to honor father and mother to 
include reverence for all in authority, such as bishops, teachers, and 
magistrates. His domestic ethic was Pauline and patriarchal, the eco- 
nomic ethic Thomistic and mainly agrarian, the political ethic Au- 
gustinian and small town. 


In one respect Luther was more conservative than Catholicism be- 
cause he abolished monasticism and thus eliminated a selected area 



for the practice of the higher righteousness. In consequence the gospel 
could be exemplified only in the midst of secular callings, except that 
Luther refused to call them secular. As he had extended the priest- 
hood of all believers, so likewise he extended the concept of divine 
calling, vocation, to all worthy occupations. 

Our expression "vocational guidance" comes directly from Luther. 
God has called men to labor because he labors. He works at common 
occupations. God is a tailor who makes for the deer a coat that will 
last for a thousand years. He is a shoemaker also who provides boots 
that the deer will not outlive. God is the best cook, because the heat 
of the sun supplies all the heat there is for cooking. God is a butler 
who sets forth a feast for the sparrows and spends on them annually 
more than the total revenue of the king of France. Christ worked as 
a carpenter. "I can just imagine," said Luther from the pulpit, "the 
people of Nazareth at the judgment day. They will come up to the 
Master and say, 'Lord, didn't you build my house? How did you come 



to this honor?' " The Virgin Mary worked, and the most amazing 
example of her humility is that after she had received the astonishing 
news that she was to be the mother of the Redeemer, she did not vaunt 
herself but went back and milked the cows, scoured the kettles, and 
swept the house like any housemaid. Peter worked as a fisherman and 
was proud of his skill, though not too proud to take a suggestion from 
the Master when he told hkn to cast on the other side. Luther com- 

I would have said, "Now look here, Master. You are a preacher, and 
I am not undertaking to tell you how to preach. And I am a fisherman, 
and you need not tell me how to fish." But Peter was humble, and the 
Lord therefore made him a fisher of men. 

The shepherds worked. They had a mean job watching their flocks 
by night, but after seeing the babe they went back. 

Surely that must be wrong. We should correct the passage to read, 
"They went and shaved their heads, fasted, told their rosaries, and put 
on cowls." Instead we read, "The shepherds returned." Where to? To 
their sheep. The sheep would have been in a sorry way if they had not. 

As God, Christ, the Virgin, the prince of the apostles, and the shep- 
herds labored, even so must we labor in our callings. God has no 
hands and feet of his own. He must continue his labors through hu- 
man instruments. The lowlier the task the better. The milkmaid and 
the carter of manure are doing a work more pleasing to God than 
the psalm singing of a Carthusian. Luther never tired of defending 
those callings which for one reason or another were disparaged. The 
mother was considered lower than the virgin. Luther replied that the 
mother exhibits the pattern of the love of God, which overcomes sins 
just as her love overcomes dirty diapers. 

Workers with brawn are prone to despise workers with brain, such 
as city secretaries and schoolteachers. The soldier boasts that it is hard 
work to ride in armor and endure heat, frost, dust, and thirst. But I'd like 
to see a horseman who could sit the whole day and look into a book. It 



is no great trick to hang two legs over a horse. They say writing is just 
pushing a feather, but I notice that they hang swords on their hips and 
feathers in high honor on their hats. Writing occupies not just the fist 


or the foot while the rest of the body can be singing or jesting, but 
the whole man. As for schoolteaching, it is so strenuous chat no one 
ought to be bound to it for more than ten years. 

Luther preferred to center his social thinking around the callings and 
to deal with men where they were in their stations, but he could not 
well treat all occupations in a purely personal way without regard to 
wider contexts. Luther recognized three broad areas of human re- 
lations, all 6f them good because instituted by God at the creation 
prior to the fall of man. These three are the ecclesiastical, the political, 
and the domestic, including the economic, which Luther conceived 



primarily in terms of raising a family. Among these only the ec- 
clesiastical engaged his theoretical thinking in any detail. The state 
was for him ordinarily simply the magistrate, though he did envisage 
the state as an association for mutual benefit, and in view of the fall 
of man as that institution which is peculiarly invested with the exercise 
of coercive power. In the realm of economics he considered less ab- 
stract laws of supply and demand than the personal relations of buyer 
and seller, debtor and creditor. His views with regard to marriage 
and the family will be considered later. 


In the economic sphere Luther was as conservative in the same 
sense as in the theological. In both he charged the Church of his day 
with innovation and summoned his contemporaries to return to the 
New Testament and to the early Middle Ages. The new Europe after 
the barbarian invasions had been agrarian, and the Church had be- 
stowed the highest esteem on agriculture, next on handicraft, and last 
of all on commerce. This too was Luther's scale of values. He was 
not hospitable to the changes introduced by the Crusades, which re- 
covered the Mediterranean for 
Christian trade and thus gave 
an immense stimulus to com- 
merce. The altered situation 
greatly affected the propriety 
of lending at interest. When 
a loan was of food stuffs in a 
famine of the early Middle 
Ages, any replacement in ex- 
cess of the goods consumed 
appeared to be extortion. But 
in a commercial venture for 
profit the case was different. 
St. Thomas saw this and sanc- 
tioned a sharing in profit by 



the lender provided there was 


also a sharing in loss. A contract of mutual risk was acceptable but not 
a contract of fixed return which would give to Shylock his ducats 
even though the ships of Antonio were on the rocks. In the age of the 
Renaissance, however, adventurers preferred a higher stake and bank- 
ers a more assured though lower return. The Church was ready to 
accommodate them both because she herself was so intimately in- 
volved in the whole process of the rise of capitalism, with banking, 
bookkeeping, credit, and loans. The Fuggers were not begrudged the 
services of the theologian John Eck to defend for a subsidy all the 
casuistic devices for evading the medieval and Thomistic restrictions 
on interest. 

Luther on the other hand became the champion of the precapitalist 
economy. How agrarian was his thinking is vividly exemplified in a 
cartoon on the title page of his tract on usury, in which a 
peasant is shown in the act of returning not only the goose which 
he had borrowed but also the eggs. Luther took his stand on the 
Deuteronomic prohibition of usury and the Aristotelian theory of the 
sterility of money. One gulden, said Luther, cannot produce an- 
other. The only way to make money is to work. Monastic idle- 
ness is a stench. If Adam had never fallen, he would still have 
worked at tilling and hunting. Begging should be abolished. 
Those who cannot protect themselves should be maintained by 
the community and the rest should work. There is but one ex- 
ception. The aged with available funds may loan at interest not in 
excess of 5 per cent or less, depending on the success of the enter- 
prise. That is, Luther retained the contract of mutual risk. Otherwise 
loans for him came under the head of charity; and Luther, despite 
his contempt for the Franciscan vow of poverty, was himself Francis- 
can in the prodigality of his giving. 

Obviously Luther was opposed to the spirit of capitalism, and naive- 
ly attributed the rise of prices to the rapacity of the capitalists. At the 
same time he contributed himself unwittingly to the developments 
which he deplored. The abolition of monasticism and the expropriation 
of ecclesiastical goods, the branding of poverty as either a sin or at least 



a misfortune if not a disgrace, and the exaltation of work as the imita- 
tion of God stimulated distinctly the spirit of economic enterprise* 


With regard to the state one must bear in mind that Luther was not 
primarily interested in politics, but in his position he could not avoid 
politics. Concrete situations pressed upon him, and he offered prompt 
comments. Emperor Charles forbade his New Testament intolerable! 
Elector Frederick protected his cause and his person admissible! The 
papacy deposed heretical rulers usurpation! The Church fomented 
crusades abomination! The sectaries rejected all government the 
very devil! When Luther came to construct a theory of government, 
he relied, as in theology, on Paul and Augustine. 

The point of departure for all Christian political thinking has been 
the thirteenth chapter of Romans, where obedience is enjoined to the 
higher powers because they are ordained of God and bear not the 
sword in vain that as ministers of God they may execute wrath upon 
evildoers. Luther was perfectly clear that coercion can never be 
eliminated because society can never be Christianized. 

The world and the masses are and always will be unchristian, although 
they are baptized and nominally Christian. Hence a man who would 
venture to govern an entire community or the world with the gospel 
would be like a shepherd who should place in one fold wolves, lions, 
eagles, and sheep. The sheep would keep the peace, but they would not 
last long. The world cannot be ruled with a rosary. 

The sword to which Luther referred meant for him the exercise of 
restraint in preserving the peace both within and without the state. 
The police power in his day was not differentiated from war, and the 
soldier had a dual function. 

In the use of the sword the ruler and his men act as the instruments 
of God. "Those who sit in the office of magistrate sit in the place of 
God, and their judgment is as if God judged from heaven." "If the 
emperor calls me/' said Luther when invited to Worms, "God calls 
me." This would seem to settle the question that a Christian can serve 



as magistrate, but not necessarily, because God can make use of the 
worst sinners as his instruments, just as he employed the Assyrian as 
the rod of his anger. And in any case Christianity is not necessary for 
a sound political administration because politics belongs to the sphere 
of nature. Luther combined a denial of man's perfectibility with a 
sober faith in man's essential decency. It is perfectly true that men 
if unrestrained will devour each other like fishes, but equally is it true 
that all men recognize by the light of reason that murder, theft, and 
adultery are wrong. The propriety of gradations within society ap- 
peared to Luther equally obvious. "I do not need the Holy Spirit to 
tell me that the Archbishop of Mainz sits higher than the Bishop of 
Brandenburg." Reason in its own sphere is quite adequate to tell a 
man how to tend cows, build houses, and govern states. It is even "re- 
ported that there is no better government on earth than under the 
Turks, who have neither civil nor canon law but only the Koran." 
The natural man can be trusted to recognize and administer justice 
provided he operates within the framework of law and government 
and does not seek to vindicate himself. In that case he cannot be trusted. 
"If the magistrate allows any private feeling to enter in, then he is the 
very devil. He has a right to seek redress in an orderly way, but not to 
avenge himself by using the keys of his office." 

But if under such conditions the non-Christian may perfectly well 
administer the state, why should a Christian be a statesman? And if the 
state is ordained because of sin, why not let sinners run it while the 
saints as a whole adopt the code of monks and renounce all exercise of 
the sword? To these questions Luther replied that if the Christian is 
involved for himself alone, he should suffer himself to be despoiled, 
but he has no right to make the same renuncktion for his neighbor. 
This sounds as if Luther were saying that the ethical code of the 
Christian community should be set by the weaker members. The 
Christian who for himself would renounce protection must ensure 
justice to others. If the Christian abstains, the government may not 
be strong enough to afford the necessary protection. Not for himself 
then, but out of love for the neighbor the Christian accepts and up- 
holds the office of the sword, 



Is he not then involved in a double ethic? The charge has been 
leveled against Luther that he relegated the Christian ethic to private 
life and turned over the state to the Devil. This is a gross misunder- 
standing of his position. His distinction was not between private and 
public, but between individual and corporate. The point was that a 
man cannot act so blithely when responsible for wife, child, pupils, 
parishioners, and subjects as if involved only for himself. One has no 
right to forego rights if they are other people's rights. The line was 
not between the state and all other institutions, because Luther placed 
the family on the side of the state and classed the father with the 
magistrate as equally bound to exercise severity, however much the 
methods might differ. One can say that Luther consigned the literal 
observance of the Sermon on the Mount to individual relations. He 
would not have the private man defend himself. Perhaps by a miracle 
one could do so in a disinterested spirit, but the course is very hazard- 
ous. Further must it be recognized that the distinction between in- 
dividual and corporate does not exhaust . Luther's categories. The 
minister also might not use the sword, not for himself or anybody else 
because of a different office. The magistrate uses the sword, the 
father uses the fist, the minister uses the tongue. In other words, 
there are varying codes of behavior according to the callings. In all 
this, Luther was drawing from and simplifying St. Augustine, who 
in his ethic of war had posited four categories: that of the magistrate, 
who determines the justice of the cause and declares hostilities; that 
of the private citizen, who wields the sword only at the magistrate's 
behest; that of the minister, who abstains from the sword because of 
his service at the altar; and that of the monk, who abstains because 
dedicated to the counsels of perfection. Luther accepted these cate- 
gories with the omission of the monk. 

But for all the codes there must be only one disposition. The unify- 
ing factor is the attitude of Christian love. This is the sense in which 
the Sermon on the Mount applies in all relations, even in war, because 
the killing of the body in the eyes of Augustine and Luther was not 
incompatible with love. Slaying and robbing in war are to be com- 
pared to the amputation of a limb to save a life. Since the exercise of 



the sword is necessary for the maintenance of peace, war may be re- 
garded as a small misfortune designed to prevent a greater. But then 
Luther would shift the problem from man to God. 

When a magistrate condemns to death a man who has done him no 
harm, he is not his enemy. He does this at God's behest. There should 
be no anger or bitterness in the man's heart, but only the wrath and 
sword of God. Also in war, where in defense one has to hew, stab, and 
burn, there is sheer wrath and vengeance, but it does not come from the 
heart of man but from the judgment and command of God. 

Luther's problem was thus ultimately theological. He believed that 
God had drowned the whole human race in a flood, had wiped out 
Sodom with fire, and had extinguished lands, peoples, and empires. 
God's behavior forces one to conclude that he is almighty and fright- 
ful. But this is the hidden God, and faith holds that at the last his 
severities will appear as mercies. "Therefore the civil sword out of 
great mercy must be unmerciful and out of sheer goodness must 
exercise wrath and severity." The dualism does not lie in any outward 
sphere but in the heart of God and man. Hence the office of the magis- 
trate must be fraught with sadness. "The godly judge is distressed by 
the condemnation of the guilty and is truly sorry for the death which 
justice brings upon them." "The executioner will say, 'Dear God, I 
kill a man unwillingly, for in thy sight I am no more godly than he.' " 


With regard to the relations of Church and state, the matter is 
complicated because Luther introduced two other entities not to be 
equated with either. He called them the Kingdom of Christ and the 
Kingdom of the World. Neither actually exists on earth. They are 
rather contrary principles, like Augustine's City of God and City of 
the Earth. The Kingdom of Christ is the way men behave when 
actuated by the spirit of Christ, in which case they have no need for 
laws and swords. Such a society, however, is nowhere in evidence, 
not even in the Church itself, which contains the tares along with 
the wheat. And the Kingdom of the World is the way men behave 



when not restrained by law and government. But as a matter of fact 
they are so restrained. Church and state, then, are not to be identified 
with the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of the World, but 
Church and state are both rent by the tugging of the demonic and 
the divine. 

The demarcation of the spheres of Church and state corresponds in 
a rough way to dualisms running through the nature of God and man. 
God is wrath and mercy. The state is the instrument of his wrath, 
the Church of his mercy. Man is divided into outward and inward. 
Crime is outward and belongs to the state. Sin is inward and belongs 
to the Church. Goods are outward and fall to the state. Faith is in- 
ward and falls to the Church, because 

faith is a free work to which no one can be forced. Heresy is a spiritual 
matter and cannot be prevented by constraint. Force may avail either 
to strengthen alike faith and heresy, or to break down integrity and turn 
a heretic into a hypocrite who confesses with his lips what he does not 
believe in his heart. Better to let men err than to drive them to lie. 

The most important distinction for Luther's political thought was 
between the lower and the higher capacities of man, corresponding 
to nature and reason on the one hand and to grace and revelation on 
the other. The natural man, when not involved for himself, has enough 
integrity and insight to administer the state in accord with justice, 
equity, and even magnanimity. These are the civil virtues. But the 
Church inculcates humility, patience, long-suffering, and charity 
the Christian virtues attainable even approximately only by those 
endowed with grace, and consequently not to be expected from the 
masses. That is why society cannot be ruled by the gospel. And that 
is why theocracy is out of the question. Then again there are different 
levels involved. The God of the state is the God of the Magnificat, 
who exalts the lowly and abases the proud. The God of the Church 
is the God of Gethsemane, who suffered at the hands of men without 
retaliation or reviling and refused the use of the sword on his behalf. 

These distinctions all point in the direction of the separation of 



Church and state. But on the other hand Luther did not split God and 
did not split man. And if he did not contemplate a Christianized so- 
ciety, he was not resigned to a secularized culture. The Church must 
run the risk of dilution rather than leave the state to the cold light of 
reason, unwarmed by tenderness. Of course if the magistrate were 
not a Christian, separation would be the obvious recourse. But if he 
were a convinced church member, the Church should not disdain his 
help in making the benefits of religion accessible to the whole popu- 
lace. The magistrate should be the nursing father of the Church. Such 
a parallelism is reminiscent of the dream of Dante, never actually 
realized in practice, because, where Church and state are allied, one 
always dominates, and the outcome is either theocracy or caesaropap- 
ism. Luther declined to separate Church and state, repudiated the- 
ocracy, and thereby left the door open for caesaropapism, however 
remote this was from his intent. 

He has been accused of fostering political absolutism, of leaving 
the citizen without redress against tyranny, of surrendering conscience 
to the state, and of making the Church servile to the powers that be. 
These accusations rest upon a modicum of truth, because Luther did 
inculcate reverence for government and discountenanced rebellion. 
He was the more emphatic because he was accused by the papists of 
subversiveness to government. He countered with characteristic ex- 
aggeration which left him open on the other side to the charge of 
subservience. "The magistracy," said he, "has never been so praised 
since the days of the apostles as by me" by which he meant that 
none had so stoutly withstood ecclesiastical encroachments. Christ 
himself, affirmed Luther, renounced any theocratic intentions by al- 
lowing himself to be born when a decree went out from Augustus 
Caesar. In most unqualified terms Luther repudiated rebellion because 
if the mob breaks loose, instead of one tyrant there will be a hundred. 
At this point he was endorsing the view of St. Thomas that tyranny 
is to be ended by insurrection only if the violence will presumably do 
less damage than the evil which it seeks to correct. 

All of which is not to say that Luther left the oppressed without 



recourse. They had prayer, which Luther did not esteem lightly, and 
they had the right of appeal. Feudal society was graded, and every 
lord had his overlord. If the common man was wronged, he might 
address himself against the lord to the overlord, all the way up to the 
emperor. When, for example, Duke Ulrich of Wiirttemberg mur- 
dered a Hutten and took his wife, the Hutten clan appealed to the 
empire, and the duke was expelled. The emperor in turn was subject 
to check by the electors. If one inquire as to the attitude of Luther 
to democracy, one must bear in mind that democracy is a complex 
concept. A widely extended franchise commended itself to none in 
his generation, except in Switzerland, but a responsiveness of govern- 
ment to the will and welfare of the people may have been better exem- 
plified in the intimate patriarchalism of his feudal society than in the 
unwieldy modern democracies. 

Neither was conscience surrendered to the state. The illegitimacy 
of rebellion did not exclude civil disobedience. This was not a right, 
but a duty on two counts: "In case the magistrate transgresses the 
first three of the Ten Commandments relating to religion, say to him, 
'Dear lord, I owe you obedience with life and goods. Command me 
within the limits of your power on earth, and I will obey. But to put 
away books [referring to Luther's New Testament] I will not obey, 
for in this you are a tyrant.' " Secondly, the prince is not to be obeyed 
if he requires service in a war manifestly unjust, as when Joachim 
of Brandenburg enlisted soldiers, ostensibly against the Turk but 
really against the Lutherans. They deserted with Luther's hearty ap- 
proval. "Since God will have us leave father and mother for his sake, 
certainly he will have us leave lords for his sake." 

Servility on the part of the Church to the magistrate was repugnant 
to Luther. The minister is commissioned to be the mentor of the 

We should wash the fur of the magistrate and clean out his mouth 
whether he laughs or rages. Christ has instructed us preachers not to 
withhold the truth from the lords but to exhort and chide them in their 
injustice. Christ did not say to Pilate, "You have no power over me." He 



said that Pilate did have power, but he said, "You do not have this power 
from yourself. It is given to you from God." Therefore he upbraided 
Pilate. We do the same. We recognize the authority, but we must rebuke 
our Pilates in their crime and self-confidence. Then they say to us, "You 
are reviling the majesty of God," to which we answer, "We will suffer 
what you do to us, but to keep still and let it appear that you do right 
when you do wrong, that we cannot and will not do." We must confess 
the truth and rebuke the evil. There is a big difference between suffering 
injustice and keeping still. We should suffer. We should not keep still. 
The Christian must bear testimony for the truth and die for the truth. 
But how can he die for the truth if he has not first confessed the truth? 
Thus Christ showed that Pilate did exercise authority from God and at 
the same time rebuked him for doing wrong. 

Here Luther was returning to the theme of the calling. The magis- 
trate has his calling; the minister has his calling. Each must* serve God 
according to his office. One calling is not better than another. One 
is not easier than another. There are temptations peculiar to each. 
The husband is tempted to lust, the merchant to greed, the magistrate 
to arrogance. And if the duty is faithfully performed, all the more 
will there be crosses. 

If the burgomaster does his duty, there will scarcely be four who will 
like him. If the father disciplines his son, the lad will be ugly. It is true 
everywhere. The prince has nothing for his pains. One is tempted to 
say, "Let the Devil be burgomaster. Let Lucifer preach. I will go to the 
desert and serve God there." It is no light task to love your neighbor as 
yourself. The more I live, the more vexation I have. But I will not 
grumble. So long as I have my job I will say, "I did not start it for myself, 
and I will not end it. It is for God and those who want to hear the gospel, 
and I will not pass by on the other side." 

But the spirit of work should not be grim. Let the birds here teach 
us a lesson. 

If you say, "Hey, birdie, why are you so gay? You have no cook, no 
cellar," he will answer, "I do not sow, I do not reap, I do not gather into 
barns. But I have a cook, and his name is Heavenly Father. Fool, shame 



m you. You do not sing. You work all day and cannot sleep for worry. '. 
ling as if I had a thousand throats." 


The sum of it all is this, that at certain points Luther's attitudes on 
economic and political problems could be predicted in advance. He 
would tolerate no wanton disturbance of the ancient ways. Rebellion 
was to him intolerable; but since religion alone is the paramount con- 
cern of man, the forms of the external life are indifferent and may be 
left to be determined by circumstance. 




ERSONS committed to his ideals were plainly 
necessary if Luther's program was to be im- 
plemented. At one time the hope did not ap- 
pear unrealistic that all Europe could be en- 
listed for the reform. Luther naively supposed 
that the pope himself, when abuses were called 
to his attention, would promptly correct them. 
With the waning of this hope expectancy 
turned to the nobility of the German nation, including the emperor, 
but this dream also proved to be illusory; and when Luther returned to 
Wittenberg, he was under the ban of both the Church and the empire. 
Yet even under those circumstances hope for a widespread reform 
did not appear altogether chimerical when a change occurred in the 
character of the papacy. The flippant popes of the Renaissance were 
succeeded by one of the austere popes of the Counter Reformation, a 
pope as much concerned as Luther for the correction of the moral and 
financial abuses. Such a pope was Hadrian VI, a Hollander reared in 
the tradition of the Brethren of the Common Life. If his brief pontifi- 
cate did not suffice to cleanse the Augean stables of the papacy, it 
might have been enough to inaugurate a new policy with regard to 
Luther. But quite on die contrary the struggle was only intensified. 
This was, in Luther's eyes, precisely as it should be. All along he had 
declared that the contest was over the faith and not over the life, and 
that if the morals were amended the teaching would still be unsound. 
The verdict of Erasmus remained true that the breach was irreparable 
because even if the reformed popes had conceded clerical marriage as 



the Church does to the Uniats, and communion in both kinds as on 
occasion to the Hussites, and a national church under Rome as in Spain 
and France, and even justification by faith properly guarded as at 
Trent even so they could scarcely have suffered the reduction of the 
number of the sacraments, the emasculation of the mass, the doctrine of 
the priesthood of all believers, let alone the rejection of papal infalli- 
bility, even though as yet it had not been formally promulgated. 


And Luther did nothing to placate them. His work of reconstruction 
commenced with further demolition. Indulgences were still being pro- 
claimed in Wittenberg. Luther addressed to the elector a demand that 
they be discontinued in so far as they rested on his patronage. Frederick 
was not hard to persuade, probably because indulgences had become so 
unpopular that the very preacher who announced them on All Saints' 



Day of 1522 declared them to be rubbish, and the crowds greeted the 
relics with booing. Frederick did not repeat the attempt on All Saints' 
Day of 1523. 

When asked whether in that case he desired the annual exhibition 
of relics, he replied in the negative. Their whole purpose had been 
to advertise the indulgences. Yet he could not quite bring himself to 
destroy or dissipate the collection amassed during a lifetime. A few 
of the choicest relics should be placed upon the altar -and the rest 
stored in the sacristy to be shown on request to foreign visitors. The 
elector who had traveled to the Orient and negotiated with monarchs 
and ecclesiastical dignitaries for one more holy bone renounced his 
cherished avocation and relinquished the most lucrative revenue of 
the Castle Church and the university. 

Luther's next attack centered on the endowed masses in the Castle 
Church, where twenty-five priests were employed to celebrate for 
the souls of the departed members of the House of Saxony. These 
private sacrifices had come to be in Luther's eyes idolatry, sacrilege, 
and blasphemy. Part of his indignation was aroused by the immorality 
of the priests, for he estimated that out of the twenty-five not over 
three were not f ornicators. But this was not the primary ground for 
his attack. He always insisted that he differed from previous reform- 
ers in that they attacked the life and he the doctrine. Certainly Fred- 
erick should as patron suppress this scandal, but that might have been 
done by dismissing the offenders and securing better recruits. Lu- 
ther in that case would not have been satisfied. The mass must go. 
Frederick obviously would have to be persuaded. Preferably the clergy 
also should concur. But Luther was ready to move, either in accord 
with both or without either. The essential was always the reform, 
whether instituted by the prince without the clergy or by the clergy 
without the prince. Universal acquiescence was desirable but not im- 
perative. The plea of weakness might become a cloak for wickedness. 
"Not all the priests of Baal under Josiah believed their rites to be im- 
pious, but Josiah paid no attention to that- It is one thing to tolerate 
the weak in nonessentials, but to tolerate in matters clearly impious is 
itself impious." The mob smashed the windows of the deanery. When 



the recalcitrants were down to three, Luther reproached them with a 
sectarian spirit in holding out against the unity of the universal 
Church as if Wittenberg were Christendom. This obviously sounds 
incredibly naive, but Luther was not thinking either of numbers or 
of centuries, but of the Church founded upon the Word of God as he 
understood it. The town council was more abrupt. They informed 
the priests that the celebration of the mass was an offense worthy of 
death. The clergy at length unanimously declared themselves con- 
vinced. By the beginning of 1525 the mass was at an end in Witten- 
berg. One cannot say precisely that it had been suppressed by force, 
but certainly the pressure was acute, though not inordinately hurried. 
The mass had continued for two and one half years after Luther's 
return from the Wartburg. 

Such changes aroused in the papists intense antagonism, and Pope 
Hadrian addressed to Frederick the Wise a veritable manifesto of the 
Counter Reformation. 

Beloved in Christ, we have endured enough and more than enough. 
Our predecessors exhorted you to desist from corrupting the Christian 
faith through Martin Luther, but the trumpet has sounded in vain. We 
have been moved by mercy and paternal affection to give you a fatherly ad- 
monition. The Saxons have ever been defenders of the faith. But now 
who has bewitched you? Who has wasted the vineyard of the Lord? Who 
but a wild boar? We have you to thank that the churches are without 
people, the people without priests, the priests without honor, and Chris- 
tians without Christ. The veil of the temple is rent. Be not beguiled be- 
cause Martin Luther appeals to Scripture. So does every heretic, but 
Scripture is a book sealed with seven seals which cannot be so well 
opened by one carnal man as by all the holy saints. The fruits of this 
evil are evident. For this robber of churches incites the people to smash 
images and break crosses. He exhorts the laity to wash their hands in the 
blood of the priests. He has rejected or corrupted the sacraments, re- 
pudiated the expunging of sins through fasts, and rejects the daily celebra- 
tion of the mass. He has committed the decretals of the holy Fathers to 
the flames. Does this sound to you like Christ or Antichrist? Separate 
yourself from Martin Luther and put a muzzle on his blasphemous tongue. 
If you will do this, we will rejoice with all the angels of heaven over one 
sinner that is saved. But if you refuse, then in the name of Almighty God 



and Jesus Christ our Lord, whom we represent on earth, we tell you that 
you will not escape punishment on earth and eternal fire hereafter. Pope 
Hadrian and Emperor Charles are in accord. Repent therefore before 
you feel the two swords. 

Frederick replied: 

Holy Father, I have never and do not now act other than as a Chris- 
tian man and an obedient son of the holy Christian Church. I trust that 
God Almighty will give me his grace that for the few years I have left 
I may strengthen his holy word, service, peace, and faith. 

But the fate of Luther and his reform rested not with the pope, the 
emperor, or the elector alone, but with the German diet meeting at 
Niirnberg. Like the Diet of Worms it was divided. The Catholic party 
was rallied by the papal legate, who freely conceded abuses but blamed 
them all on the deceased Leo and called for obedience to his noble 

successor. Leadership among 
the laity fell in the absence of 
the emperor to his brother 
Ferdinand of Austria, who in his 
brief week of attendance tried 
to enforce the edict of Worms 
on his own authority and was 
promptly repulsed by the diet. 
Thereupon a coterie of Catholic 
princes formed the nucleus of 
the subsequent league. There 
was Joachim of Brandenburg, 
eager by zeal against Lutheran- 
ism to appease the emperor for 
having voted against his elec- 
tion. There was Cardinal Lang, 
spokesman of the Hapsburgs. 
The Bavarians were consistently Catholic, and the Palatinate was 
swinging over. This of course was not the definitive alignment. 
Frederick the Wise with his bland obstructionism certainly did not 




speak the common mind of Catholic laity. There were other princes 
who gladly heeded the admonitions of the pope. Chief among them 
was Duke George, whose zeal against heresy was enough to set the 
Rhine on fire. Luther had felt a twinge of uneasiness over his blasts 
against the duke and made a gesture of reconciliation but was repulsed. 
George said: 

I write not in hate but to bring you to yourself. As a layman I am 
unable to put on the armor of Saul and dispute Scripture with you, but 
I can see that you have offended against your neighbor. You have reviled 
not only me but the emperor. You have made Wittenberg an asylum for 
escaped monks and nuns. The fruit of your gospel is blasphemy of God 
and the sacrament, and rebellion against government. When has there 
been more corrupting of cloisters? When more breach of marriages than 
since you began to preach? No, Luther, keep your gospel. I will stay by 
the gospel of Christ with body and soul, goods and honor. But God is 
merciful. He will forgive you if you return, and I will then try to 
obtain for you a pardon from the emperor. 

Henry VIII was another Catholic prince to have a tilt with Luther, 
and he was hardly mollified by the reply which referred to Martin 
Luther as "minister at Wittenberg by the grace of God" and to 
"Henry, King of England by the disgrace of God." Even though 
Luther made a subsequent gesture of reconciliation, Henry continued 
to regard him as a preacher of "unsatiate liberty." Plainly the "papists," 
whether clerical or lay, were Sanballats who would impede the build- 
ing of the walls. 


The Catholic moderates might conceivably react differentlythe 
Erasmians, the Humanists who had constituted the middle party 
at Worms. And indeed their stand might have been different had 
not the pressures been so intense as to leave no room for neutrality. 
Reluctantly the mediators were driven to enter one camp or the 
other. They went in both directions. Some very outstanding per- 
sons returned to Rome, among them Pirkheimer of Nxirnberg. 
The deepest offense to Luther lay in the stand taken by Erasmus 



of Rotterdam. His position had not essentially changed. He still 
felt that Luther had done much good, and that he was no heretic. 
This Erasmus openly said in a colloquy published as late as 1524. 
But he deplored the disintegration of Christendom. His dream of 
European concord had been shattered by the outbreak of war 
between France and the empire before the close .of the Diet 
of Worms. Coincidently the ecclesiastical division had rent the 
seamless robe of Christ. Erasmus preferred the role of mediator, but 
he was unremittingly pushed by prominent persons whom he 
esteemed kings, cardinals, and his old friend Pope Hadrian to 
declare himself. At last he yielded and consented to state at what 
point he differed from Luther. It was not indulgences. It was not 
the mass. It was the doctrine of man. Erasmus brought out a tract 
entitled On the "Freedom of the Will. 

Luther thanked him for centering the discussion at this point. 
"You alone have gone to the heart of the problem instead of debating 
the papacy, indulgences, purgatory, and similar trifles. You alone have 
gone to the core, and I thank you for it." Luther's fundamental 
break with the Catholic Church was over the nature and destiny of 
man, and much more over the destiny than the nature. That was why 
he and Erasmus did not come altogether to grips. Erasmus was 
interested primarily in morals, whereas Luther's question was whether 
doing right, even if it is possible, can affect man's fate. Erasmus 
succeeded in diverting Luther from the course by asking whether 
the ethical precepts of the Gospels have any point if they cannot 
be fulfilled. Luther countered with characteristic controversial reck- 
lessness that man is like a donkey ridden now by God and now by 
the Devil, a statement which certainly seems to imply that man has 
no freedom whatever to decide for good or ill. This certainly was 
not Luther's habitual thought. He was perfectly ready to say that 
even the natural man can practice the civil virtues as a responsible 
husband, an affectionate father, a decent citizen, and an upright 
magistrate. Man is capable of the integrity and valor displayed by 
the Romans of old or the Turks of today. Most of the precepts of 
the gospel can be outwardly kept. But in the eyes of God "there 



is none righteous, no, not one." Motives are never pure. The noblest 
acts are vitiated by arrogance, self-love, the desire of the eye and 
the lust of power. From the religious point of view man is a sinner. 
He has therefore no claim upon God. If man is not irretrievably 
lost, it can only be because God deigns to favor him beyond his 

The problem then shifts from man to God. Erasmus was con- 
cerned for morality in God as well as in man. Is it not unjust that 
God should create man incapable of fulfilling the conditions for 
salvation and then at whim save or damn for what cannot be helped? 
"Of course this is a stumbling block," answered Luther. 

Common sense and natural reason are highly offended that God by his 
mere will deserts, hardens, and damns, as if he delighted in sins and in 
such eternal torments, he who is said to be of such mercy and goodness. 
Such a concept of God appears wicked, cruel, and intolerable, and by 
it many men have been revolted in all ages. I myself was once off ended 
to the very depth of the abyss of desperation, so that I wished I had 
never been created. There is no use trying to get away from this by 
ingenious distinctions. Natural reason, however much it is offended, must 
admit the consequences of the omniscience and omnipotence of God. 

But this was precisely what the natural reason of Erasmus would 
not concede. He perceived that the conflict lay between the power 
and goodness of God. He would rather limit the power than forfeit 
the goodness; Luther the reverse. At any rate Erasmus would not 
assert more than he had to. Difficulties he recognized that some men, 
for example, are born morons, and God is responsible for their con- 
ditionbut why project these riddles of life into eternity and transfix 
paradoxes into dogmas? "They are not my paradoxes," retorted 
Luther. "They are God's paradoxes." Erasmus inquired how Luther 
could know this, and he countered by citing the statement of the 
apostle Paul that the fates of Jacob and Esau were settled before 
they emerged from the womb. Erasmus rejoined that other passages 
of Scripture bear a different sense, and the matter is therefore not 
clear. If it were, why should debates over it have continued for 
centuries? Scripture needs to be interpreted, and the claim of the 



Lutherans to have the Spirit by which to interpret is not confirmed 
by the fruits of the Spirit in their behavior. 

Luther's answer to Erasmus was to impute to him a spirit of 
skepticism, levity, and impiety. Tranquil discussion of man's destiny 
of itself betrays insensitivity to God's majesty. The craving of 
Erasmus to confine himself to the clear and simple spelled for Luther 
the abandonment of Christianity, for the reason that Christianity 
cannot be simple and obvious to the natural man. 

Show me a single mortal in the whole universe, no matter how just 
and saintly, to whose mind it would have ever occurred that this should 
be the way of salvation to believe in him who was both God and man, 
who died for our sins, who rose and sits at the right hand of the Father. 
What philosopher ever saw this? Who among the prophets? The cross 
is a scandal to the Jews and a folly to the Gentiles. ... If it is difficult to 
believe in God's mercy and goodness when he damns those who do not 
deserve it, we must recall that if God's justice could be recognized as 
just by human comprehension, it would not be divine. Since God is true 
and one, he is utterly incomprehensible and inaccessible to human reason. 
Therefore his justice also must be imcomprehensible. "O the depth of the 
riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are 
his judgments!" 

They are hidden to the light of nature and revealed only to the 
light of glory. "Erasmus, who does not go beyond the light of nature," 
said Luther, "may like Moses die in the plains of Moab without 
entering into the promised land of those higher studies which pertain 
to piety." 

Erasmus characterized his own position in these words: "The wise 
navigator will steer between Scylla and Charybdis. I have sought 
to be a spectator of this tragedy." Such a role was not permitted to 
him, and between the confessional millstones his type was crushed. 
Where again does one find precisely his blend of the cultivated 
Catholic scholar: tolerant, liberal, dedicated to the revival of the 
classical Christian heritage in the unity of Christendom? The leadership 
of Protestantism was to pass to the Neo-Scholastics and of the Cath- 
olics to the Jesuits. 



Luther for all his bluster was not untouched by the reproach that 
his acrimony ill comported with the spirit of the apostles. He had 
angered Henry VIII, infuriated Duke George, estranged Erasmus. 
Had he perhaps hurt also old Dr. Staupitz, who had not written for 
some time? Luther inquired, and Staupitz answered: 

My love for you is unchanged, passing the love of women . . . , but you 
seem to me to condemn many external things which do not affect justifica- 
tion. Why is the cowl a stench in your nostrils when many in it have lived 
holy lives? There is nothing without abuse. My dear friend, I beseech you 
to remember the weak. Do not denounce points of indifference which 
can be held in sincerity, though in matters of faith be never silent. We 
owe much to you, Martin. You have taken us from die pigsty to the 
pasture of life. If only you and I could talk for an hour and open the 
secrets of our hearts! I hope you will have good fruit at Wittenberg. 
My prayers are with you. 

Shortly after the receipt of this letter Luther received the news 
that Dr. Staupitz was dead. So it was then in the Catholic camp: 
the pope implacable, Henry VIII railing, Duke George raging, 
Erasmus refuting, Staupitz dead. 


Obviously, then, the walls could be rebuilt only by those who had 
definitely broken with Rome. And then came the next blow, vastly 
more stunning than the first. Those who had broken with Rome were 
not themselves united. Partly through defections from Lutheranism 
and partly through the independent rise of variant forms of Evangeli- 
calism the pattern of diversity was displayed. Luther was stung. 
The initial disorders at Wittenberg had already dealt him a more severe 
stroke than any he had ever received from the papacy, and he had 
already begun to perceive that he was closer to Rome than to the 
radicals. At any rate he was in between. "I take," said he, "the middle 
road." He found himself now in the position formerly occupied by 
the Erasmians at Worms. When they were driven to the wall, the 
Lutherans emerged as the middle group between the papists to the 
right and the sectaries to the left. 



One of the most curious aspects of the whole shift is that in many 
respects the radicals were the heirs of Erasmus, who saw the great 
abuse in Catholicism, not as did Luther in the exaltation of man, 
but in the externalization of religion. The degree to which the 
sectaries stressed the inward and spiritual led to drastic consequences 
for the theory and life of the Church. The spirit was set in opposition 
to the letter of Scripture, as already by the Zwickau prophets. 
The spirit was considered able to dispense with all external aids, 
whether of art or music, as Carlstadt had just been saying, or even 
of the sacraments as the outward channels of invisible grace. The 
experience of the spirit was made the necessary qualification for 
Church membership. Infant baptism was consequently rejected, if 
not indeed all baptism, on the ground that outward water "profiteth 
nothing." The idea of a national or territorial church was discarded 
because the total population of any given district never meets so 
exacting a test. The Church of the spirit is of necessity a sect which 
may seek to preserve its integrity by segregation from society, or may 
attempt to dominate the world through jthe reign of the saints. Here 
is the concept of all the Protestant theocracies. Within the religious 
community leadership falls to the spirit-filled, be they clerical or lay, 
and the outcome may well be the abolition of a professional ministry. 

Another Erasmian idea, not altogether consonant with the first, 
is that of the restitution of primitive Christianity. The details selected 
for restoration were commonly those in accord with the religion 
of the spirit, but the very attempt to restore lent itself readily to a 
new externalism and legalism. 

This whole pattern of ideas was alien to Luther. He could not 
separate spirit and flesh because man is a whole. Therefore art, music, 
and sacrament are the appropriate expressions of religion. The attempt 
to build the Church on a selective basis did intrigue him, and his 
fury against the sectaries was in large measure intensified by the 
conflict within himself. But the notion of a Protestant theocracy 
was to him as abhorrent as the papal monarchy. The effort to restore 
the minutiae of New Testament practice wore for him the air of a 
new legalism and externality against which he employed the very 



slogans of the radicals and became himself the champion of the spirit 
against the letter. 

The first attempt to give concretion to many of the elements in this 
pattern occurred in Luther's own circle and might be regarded as 
defection from his ranks. The environs of Wittenberg provided the 
terrain, and the leaders were Andrew Carlstadt again and Thomas 
Miintzer. This was unfortunate because, although both were sensitive 
and gifted, neither was balanced and stable. If Luther had met such 
ideas first in Zwingli and the sober Anabaptists, he might not have 
been so devoid of understanding and so implacable in opposition. 

Carlstadt's most serious radicalism developed after he had retired 
to the parish of Orlamiinde. There he added to his prior attack on 
images and church music a further denial of the real presence of 
Christ in the sacrament of the altar. The objection in all three 
instances was to the use of the physical as a means of communion with 
the divine. God is a spirit, and he cannot be in bread and wine. 
Christ said only, "This do in remembrance of me." Hence the bread 
and wine are merely reminders, not even symbols, let alone channels. 
Carlstadt interpreted the words of Christ, "This is my body, this is 
my blood," to mean, "This is the body which will be broken. This 
is the blood which will be shed." Luther countered that if this 
passage was in the least ambiguous there was another text which reads, 
"The cup . , . , is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? 
The bread . . . , is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" 
(I Cor. 10:16.) "This is the thunderclap from which there is no 
escape. If five years ago I could have been convinced of Carlstadt's 
position, I should have been grateful for such a mighty weapon 
against the papacy, but the Scripture was too strong for me." One 
wonders whether Scripture was really determinative. The roles of 
Luther and Carlstadt were reversed when they passed from the 
question of images to the Lord's Supper. Carlstadt was the literalist 
on the words of Moses, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 
image," and Luther on the words of Christ, "This is my body." The 
real question was whether the physical is an aid or an impediment to 
religion. Carlstadt's Biblicism was in evidence mainly in restraining 



him from rejecting the Lord's Supper entirely, as did the Quakers. 
He retained the rite because Christ said, "This do in remembrance 
of me." 

He rejected likewise infant baptism. The Zwickau prophets had 
done this before him, and the Anabaptists were to make this the 
cardinal tenet of their sect. The essential point was the necessity 
of an adult experience of religious conviction. There was with Carl- 
stadt the added point that outward physical water is of n.o efficacy 
and is often destructive, as when the hosts of Pharaoh were swallowed 
in the Red Sea. One wonders again why he did not reject all baptism. 
His emphasis on Sabbatarianism was designed to give men relief 
from mundane tasks that they might have quiet times for the culti- 
vation of the inner life. 

His greatest eccentricities in Luther's eyes arose from his efforts 
to achieve a lay ministry. Luther had proclaimed the priesthood 
of all believers. The corollary might be, as with the Quakers, that 
there should be no professional minister at all. So far Carlstadt would 
not go, but he wished as a minister to be set off in no way from his 
fellows. The parishioners were not to call him Herr Doktor or Herr 
Pfarrer, but simply "good neighbor" or "Brother Andreas." He gave 
up any distinctive garb and wore only a plain gray coat, declined 
to be supported by the congregation, undertaking instead to earn his 
living at the plow. 

Luther was completely without feeling for this whole program. 
He cared nothing indeed for the falderal of academic degrees, 
but he cared mightily for a trained ministry and perceived that if 
Carlstadt's plan prevailed the outcome would assuredly be not that 
the peasant would know as much as the preacher, but that the 
preacher would know no more than the peasant. He twitted Carl- 
stadt for reeling off Hebrew quotations in a peasant's smock. As for 
the plain cloak and the "Brother Andreas," these appeared, if not 
as an affectation, then as a neomonastic attempt to win the favor of 
heaven by spectacular renunciations. As to the earning of one's bread 
at the plow, Luther was willing enough to support himself by manual 
labor if expelled from his ministry, but voluntarily to withdraw 



from a parish to a farm savored to him of an evasion of responsibility. 
"What would I not give to get away from a cantankerous congrega- 
tion and look into the friendly eyes of animals?" 

Other points in Carlstadt's program such as Sabbatarianism, 
obligatory clerical matrimony, and the rejection of images appeared 
to Luther as a new legalism. Carlstadt, he claimed, reversed the rela- 
tion of inward and outward. By making absolute rules for days, 
dress, and status he was attaching altogether too much importance 
to the exterior. Here the spirit should decide. Plainly there were other 
notes in Carlstadt's religion than the stress on the spiritual. He was 
consumed by a passion for holiness and a concern for the renunciation 
of privilege with a degree of social leveling. At these points Luther 
would accord a wider latitude. And he might have been willing to 
grant latitude also to Carlstadt had it not been for the insurgence 
of a much more sinister figure. 


Thomas Miintzer came from Zwickau and revived some of 
the ideas of the prophets from that town, but with much greater 

allure because of his learning, 
ability, and intense enthusiasm. 
Miintzer gave a much more 
radical turn than Carlstadt to 
the cleavage of spirit and flesh 
by rejecting not only infant 
baptism, but all baptism, $nd by 
applying this dualism to the 
spirit versus the letter of Scrip- 
ture. Those who rely on the 
letter, said he, are the scribes 
against whom Christ inveighed. 
Scripture as a mere book is but 
paper and ink. "Bible, Babel, 
bubble!" he cried. Behind this 
virulence was a religious con- 




cern. Miintzer had not been troubled like Luther as to how 
to get right with God, but as to whether there is any God to 
get right with. The Scripture as a mere written record did not 
reassure him because he observed that it is convincing only to 
the convinced. The Turks are acquainted with the Bible but remain 
completely alienated. The men who wrote the Bible had no 
Bible at the time when they wrote. Whence, then, did they derive 
their assurance? The only answer can be that God spoke to them 
directly, and so must he speak to us if we are so much as to under- 
stand the Bible. Miintzer held, with the Catholic Church, that the 
Bible is inadequate without a divinely inspired interpreter, but that 
interpreter is not the Church nor the pope but the prophet, the new 
Elijah, the new Daniel, to whom is given the key of David to open 
the book sealed with seven seals. 

Miintzer was readily able to find support for his view of the spirit 
in the Scripture itself, where it is said that "the letter killeth, but 
the spirit giveth life" (II Cor. 3:6). Luther replied that of course 
the letter without the spirit is dead, but the two are no more to be 
divorced than the soul is to be separated from the body. The real 
menace of Miintzer in Luther's eyes was that he destroyed the 
uniqueness of Christian revelation in the past by his elevation of 
revelation in the present. Luther for himself had had absolutely no 
experience of any contemporary revelation, and in times of despond- 
ency the advice to rely upon the spirit was for him a counsel of 
despair, since within he could find only utter blackness. 

In such moments he must have assurance in tangible form in a 
written record of the stupendous act of God in Christ. Luther freely 
avowed his weakness and his need of historic revelation. Therefore 
he would not listen to Miintzer though "he had swallowed the Holy 
Ghost, feathers and all." At this point lies much of the difference 
not only between Miintzer and Luther, but between modern liberal 
Protestantism and the religion of the founders. 

Had Miintzer drawn no practical consequences from his view, 
Luther would have been less outraged, but Miintzer proceeded to 
use the gift of the Spirit as a basis for the formation of a church. 



He is the progenitor of the Protestant theocracies, based not as in 
Judaism primarily on blood and soil, nor as in Catholicism on sacra- 
mentalism, but rather on inward experience of the infusion of the 
Spirit. Those who are thus reborn can recognize each other and can 
join in a covenant of the elect, whose mission it is to erect God's 
kingdom. Such a role for the Church was to Luther completely 
repugnant. Miintzer did not expect the elect to enter into their in- 
heritance without a struggle. They would have to slaughter the un- 
godly. At this point Luther was horrified because the sword is given 
to the magistrate, not to the minister, let alone to the saints. In the 
struggle Miintzer well recognized that many of the godly would fall, 
and he was constantly harping on suffering and cross bearing as a 
mark of the elect. Luther was taunted as "Dr. Easychair and Dr. 
Pussyfoot," basking in the favor of the princes. His reply was that the 
outward cross is neither to be sought nor evaded. The constant cross 
is suffering within. Once again the tables were turned, and Luther 
appeared as the champion of the inward. 


In 1523 Miintzer succeeded in having himself elected as minister 
in the Saxon town of Alstedt. As many as two thousand outsiders 
flocked to his preaching. He was able to report thirty units ready 
to slaughter the ungodly. The only overt act, however, was the 
burning of a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This was in 
March, 1524. 

Luther thereupon addressed the princes of Saxony: 

These Alstedters revile the Bible and rave about the spirit, but where 
do they show the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, and patience? Do 
not interfere with them so long as they confine themselves to the office 
of the Word. Let the spirits fight it out, but when the sword is drawn 
you must step in, be it they or we who take it. You must banish the 
offender from the land. Our office is simply preaching and suffering. 
Christ and the apostles did not smash images and churches, but won 
hearts with God's Word. The Old Testament slaughter of the ungodly 
is not to be imitated. If these Alstedters want to wipe out the ungodly, 



they will have to bathe in blood. But you are ordained of God to keep 
the peace, and you must not sleep. 

The young prince John Frederick, nephew and heir apparent to 
Frederick the Wise, was already being associated with his uncle 
and his father in the administration of Saxony. To a subordinate he 
wrote in August, 1524: 

I am having a terrible time with the Satan of Alstedt. Kindliness and 
letters do not suffice. The sword which is ordained of God to punish the 
evil must be used with energy. Carlstadt also is stirring up something, and 
the Devil wants to be Lord. 

Here Carlstadt and Miintzer are linked together. For Carlstadt 
this was both unjust and unfortunate. He had written to Miintzer 
that he would have nothing to do with his covenant, nor with blood- 
shed. But the iconoclastic riots in Orlamunde and Alstedt appeared to 
be of one stripe. Carlstadt was summoned to Jena for an interview 
with Luther and convinced him of the injustice of the charge of 
rebellion. When, however, Luther himself visited Orlamunde and 
observed the revolutionary temper of the congregation, he came to 
question the sincerity of the disclaimer and acquiesced in the banish- 
ment of Carlstadt, who was compelled to quit Saxony, leaving his 
pregnant wife and their child to join him later. He departed claiming 
in the very words of Luther after Worms that he had been con- 
demned "unheard and unconvicted," and that he had been expelled 
by his former colleague who was twice a papist and a cousin of 

Miintzer, having been summoned to preach at Weimar in the 
presence of Frederick the Wise and his brother Duke John, had the 
temerity to seek to enlist them for his program. He took his text 
from Daniel's interpretation of the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar 
and began by saying that the Church was an undefiled virgin until 
corrupted by the scribes who murder the Spirit and assert that God 
no longer reveals himself as of old. He declared further: 



But God does disclose himself in the inner word in the abyss of the 
soul. The man who has not received the living witness of God knows 
really nothing about God, though he may have swallowed 100,000 
Bibles. God comes in dreams to his beloved as he did to the patriarchs, 
prophets, and apostles. He comes especially in affliction. That is why 
Brother Easychair rejects him. God pours out his Spirit upon all flesh, 
and now the Spirit reveals to the elect a mighty and irresistible reforma- 
tion to come. This is the fulfilment of the prediction of Daniel about 
the fifth monarchy. You princes of Saxony, you need a new Daniel to 
disclose unto you this revelation and to show you your role. Think not 
that the power of God will be realized if your swords rust in the scabbard. 
Christ said that he came not to bring peace but a sword, and Deuteronomy 
says "You are a holy people. Spare not the idolaters, break down their 
altars, smash their images and burn them in the fire." The sword is given 
to you to wipe out the ungodly. If you decline, it will be taken from you. 
Those who resist should be slaughtered without mercy as Elijah smote 
the priests of Baal. Priests and monks who mock the gospel should be 
killed. The godless have no right to live. May you like Nebuchadnezzar 
appoint a Daniel to inform you of the leadings of the Spirit. 

The Saxon princes were of no mind to appoint Miintzer to such a 
post. Instead they referred the case to a committee. Miintzer did not 
wait for the report but by night escaped over the walls of Alstedt 
and fled from Saxony. Latitude had been vindicated at the expense 
of liberty. The regime of Carlstadt would have been rigoristic and 
the reign of Miintzer's saints intolerant of the godless. Yet the fact 
could not be gainsaid that the agitators had been expelled by the 
sword of the magistrate. Luther ruefully pondered the gibe that 
instead of being a martyr he was making martyrs. 




COPE FOR rebuilding was further reduced by 
the rise independently of rival forms of Evan- 
gelicalism, namely Zwinglianism and Anabap- 
tism. These were Luther's Behemoth and 
Leviathan. Then came the conjunction of the 
religious ferment with a vast social revolt when 
the waters were unloosed in the Peasants' 
War. The outcome was at once a restriction 
of Luther's sphere of operations and a waning of his trust in human- 

The new movements were largely independent but not wholly 
unrelated to the recent disturbances in Wittenberg. Carlstadt expelled 
from Saxony went to the south German cities. Luther shortly there- 
after received letters from the ministers of Strassburg. "We are not 
yet persuaded by Carlstadt, but many of his arguments are weighty. 
We are disturbed because you have driven out your old colleague 
with such inhumanity. At Basel and Zurich are many who agree with 
him/' "From the Lord's Supper, the symbol of love, arise such hatreds." 
Basel was the residence of Erasmus, who both repudiated and 
abetted the inferences drawn from his premises by impetuous dis- 
ciples. He would not concede, because the flesh of Christ in the sacra- 
ment profits nothing, that therefore the flesh is not present. At the 
same time he confided to a friend that were it not for the authority 
of the Church he would agree with the innovators. 




Zurich was the seat of a new variety- of the Reformation which 
was to be set over against that of Wittenberg and characterized 
as the Reformed. The leader was Ulrich Zwingli. He had received a 
Humanist training and as a Catholic priest divided his parsonage 
into a parish house on the ground floor and a library of the classics 
on the second. On the appearance of Erasmus' New Testament he 
committed the epistles to memory in Greek, and affirmed in conse- 
quence that Luther had been able to teach him nothing about the 
understanding of Paul. But what Zwingli selected for emphasis in 
Paul was the text, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life," which 
he coupled with a Johannine verse, "The flesh profiteth nothing." 
Flesh was taken by Zwingli in the Platonic sense of body, whereas 
Luther understood it in the Hebraic sense of the evil heart which may 
or may not be physical. Zwingli made a characteristic deduction 
from his disparagement of the body that art and music are inap- 
propriate as the handmaids of religionand this, although he was 
himself a musician accomplished on six instruments. The next step 
was easy: to deny the real presence in the sacrament, which was 
reduced to a memorial of the death of Christ as the Passover was a 
commemoration of the escape of Israel from Egypt. When Luther 
appealed to the words, "This is my body," Zwingli countered that in 
the Aramaic tongue spoken by Jesus the copulative verb was omitted, 
so that what he said was simply, "This my body." (In the Greek 
of the Lukan version the companion verse reads, "This cup the new 
testament.") And in this phrase one may with perfect right supply 
not "is" but "signifies." Luther sensed at once the affinity of Zwingli's 
view with that of Carlstadt, on whom he was not dependent, and with 
that of Erasmus, in whom he was steeped. The familiar reproach 
against Erasmus was hurled at Zwingli that he did not take religion 
seriously* "How does he know?" retorted Zwingli. "Can he read the 
secrets of our hearts?" 

A similarity to Miintzer also impressed Luther because Zwingli 
was politically minded and not averse to the use of the sword even 



for religion. Zwingli was always a Swiss patriot, and in translating 
the Twenty-third Psalm rendered the second verse "He maketh 
me to lie down in an Alpine meadow." And there he could find no 
still waters. The evangelical issue threatened to disrupt his beloved 
confederation. For the Catholics turned to the traditional enemy, 
the House of Hapsburg. Ferdinand of Austria was instrumental in 
the calling of the assembly of Baden to discuss Zwingli's theory of 
the sacrament. This was his Diet of Worms, and the sequel convinced 
him that the gospel could be saved in Switzerland and the confedera- 
tion conserved only if the Catholic League with Austria were 
countered by an evangelical league with the German Lutherans, ready 
if need be to use the sword. But the very notion of a military alliance 
for the defense of the gospel savored for Luther of Thomas Miintzer. 
Then arose in Zwingli's circle a party at the opposite pole of the 
political question. These were the Anabaptists. Their point of de- 
parture was another aspect of the Erasmian program, dear also to 
Zwingli. This was the restoration of primitive Christianity, which 
they took to mean the adoption of the Sermon on the Mount as a 
literal code for all Christians, who should renounce oaths, the use 
of the sword whether in war or civil government, private possessions, 
bodily adornment, reveling and drunkenness. Pacifism, religious 
communism, simplicity, and temperance marked their communities. 
The Church should consist only of the twice-born, committed to the 
covenant of discipline. Here again we meet the concept of the elect, 
discernible by the two tests of spiritual experience and moral achieve- 
ment. The Church should rest not on baptism administered in infancy, 
but on regeneration, symbolized by baptism in mature years. Every 
member should be a priest, a minister, and a missionary prepared to 
embark on evangelistic tours. Such a Church, though seeking to 
convert the world, could never embrace the unconverted community. 
And if the state comprised all the inhabitants, then Church and state 
would have to be separated. In any case religion should be free from 
constraint. Zwingli was aghast to see the medieval unity shattered 
and in panic invoked the arm of the state. In 1525 the Anabaptists 
in Zurich were subjected to the death penalty. Luther was not yet 



ready for such savage expedients. But he too was appalled by what 
to him appeared to be a reversion to the monastic attempt to win 
salvation by a higher righteousness. The leaving of families for 
missionary expeditions was in his eyes a sheer desertion of domestic 
responsibilities, and the repudiation of the sword prompted him to 
new vindications of the divine calling alike of the magistrate and 
of the soldier. 


Then came the fusion of a great social upheaval with the ferment 
of the Reformation in which Luther's principles were to his mind 
perverted and the radicalism of the sectaries contributed to a state of 
anarchy. Nothing did so much as the Peasants' War to make Luther 
recoil against a too drastic departure from the pattern of the Middle 

The Peasants' War did not arise out of any immediate connection 
with the religious issues of the sixteenth century because agrarian un- 
rest had been brewing for fully a century. Uprisings had occurred all 
over Europe, but especially in south Germany, where particularly the 
peasants suffered from changes which ultimately should have minis- 
tered to their security and prosperity. Feudal anarchy was being su- 
perseded through the consolidation of power. In Spain, England, and 
France this had taken place on a national scale, but in Germany only 
on a territorial basis; and in each political unit the princes were en- 
deavoring to integrate the administration with the help of a bureauc- 
racy of salaried court officials. The expenses were met by increased 
levies on the land. The peasant paid the bill. The law was being unified 
by displacing the diverse local codes in favor of Roman law, where- 
by the peasant again suffered, since the Roman law knew only private 
property and therefore imperiled the commons the woods, streams, 
and meadows shared by the community in old Germanic tradition. 
The Roman law knew also only free men, freedmen, and slaves; and 
did not have a category which quite fitted the medieval serf. 

Another change, associated with the revival of commerce in cities 
after the crusades, was the substitution of exchange in coin for ex- 



change in kind. The increased demand for the precious metals en- 
hanced their value; and the peasants, who were at first benefited by 
the payment of a fixed sum of money rather than a percentage in 
kind, found themselves hurt by deflation. Those who could not meet 
the imposts sank from freeholders to renters, and from renters to 
serfs. The solution which at first suggested itself to the peasants was 
simply resistance to the changes operative in their society and a return 
to the good old ways. They did not in the beginning demand the aboli- 
tion of serfdom but only the prevention of any further extension of 
peonage. They clamored rather for free woods, waters, and meadows 
as in the former days, for the reduction of imposts and the reinstate- 
ment of the ancient Germanic law and local custom. The methods to 
be used for the attainment of these ends were at first conservative. On 
the occasion of a special grievance the peasants would assemble in 
thousands in quite unpremeditated fashion and would present their 
petitions to the rulers with a request for arbitration. Not infrequently 
the petition was met in a patriarchal way and the burdens in some 
measure eased, yet never sufficiently to forestall recurrence. 

On the other hand the peasant class was not uniformly impover- 
ished; and the initiative for the redress of grievances came not from 
the downtrodden, but rather from the more prosperous and enterpris- 
ing, possessed themselves of lands and a respectable competence. In- 
evitably their demands began to go beyond economic amelioration to 
political programs designed to insure for them an influence commen- 
surate with and even exceeding their economic importance. The de- 
mands likewise changed as the movement worked north into the 
region around the big bend of the Rhine where peasants were also 
townsmen, since artisans were farmers. In this section urban aspira- 
tions were added to the agrarian. Farther down the Rhine the struggle 
became almost wholly urban, and the characteristic program called 
for a more democratic complexion in the town councils, a less restric- 
tive membership in the guilds, the subjection of the clergy to civil 
burdens, and uncurtailed rights for citizens to engage in brewing. 

Many of the tendencies coalesced in a movement in Alsace just 
prior to the Reformation. This uprising used the symbol characteris- 



tic of tie great Peasants' War of 1525, the Bundschuh. The name came 
from the leather shoe of the peasant. The long thong with which it 
was laced was called a Bund. The word had a double meaning because 
a Bund was also an association, a covenant. Miintzer had used this word 
for his covenant of the elect. Before him the peasants had adopted the 
term for a compact of revolution. The aims of this Bundschuh cen- 
tered not so much on economics as on politics. The ax should be laid 
to the root of the tree and all government abolished save that of the 
pope and the emperor. These were the two traditional swords of 
Christendom, the joint rulers of a universal society. To them the 
little men had always turned for protection against overlords, bishops, 
metropolitans, knights, and princes. The Bundschuh proposed to 
complete the process by wiping out all the intermediate grades and 
leaving only the two great lords, Caesar and Peter. 

Prior to the Peasants' War of 1525 this movement was often anti- 
clerical but not anti-Catholic. Bishops and abbots were resented as 
exploiters, but "Down with the bishop" did not mean "Down with 
the pope" or "Down with the Church." The banners of the Bunds- 
chuh often carried, besides the shoe, some religious symbol, such as a 
picture of Mary, a crucifix, or a papal tiara. The accompanying wood- 
cut shows the crucifix resting upon a black shoe. On the right a 
group of peasants are swearing allegiance. Above them other peasants 
are tilling the soil, and Abraham is sacrificing Isaac as a sign of the 
cost to be paid by the members of the Bund. 


A movement so religiously-minded could not but be affected by 
the Reformation. Luther's freedom of the Christian man was purely 
religious but could very readily be given a social turn. The priesthood 
of believers did not mean for him equalitarianism, but Carlstadt took 
it so. Luther certainly had blasted usury and in 1524 came out with 
another tract on the subject, in which he scored also the subterfuge 
of annuities, a device whereby capital was loaned in perpetuity for an 
annual return. His attitude on monasticism likewise admirably suited 
peasant covetousness for the spoliation of cloisters. The peasants with 



good reason felt themselves strongly drawn to Luther. A cartoon 
displayed Luther surrounded by peasants as he expounded the Word 
of God to the ecclesiastics, and when the great upheaval came in 
1524-25 a Catholic retorted by 
portraying Luther in armor 
seated before a fire greasing a 
Bundschuh. The Catholic 
princes never ceased to hold 
Luther responsible for the up- 
rising, and the Catholic historian 
Janssen has in modern times en- 
deavored to prove that Luther 
was actually the author of the 
movement which he so ve- 
hemently repudiated. Such an 
explanation hardly takes into ac- 
count the century of agrarian 
unrest by which the Reforma- 
tion had been preceded. 

One intangible contributory factor was utterly foreign to Luther's 
way of thinking, and that was astrology. Melanchthon dabbled in it 
but Luther never. Astrological speculation may well explain why so 
many peasant uprisings coincided in the fall of 1524 and the spring of 
1525. It was in the year 1524 that all the planets were in the constella- 
tion of the Fish. This had been foreseen twenty years previously, and 
great disturbances had been predicted for that year. As the time ap- 
proached, the foreboding was intense. In the year 1523 as many as 
fifty-one tracts appeared on the subject. Woodcuts like the one below 
displayed the Fish in the heavens and upheavals upon earth. The peas- 
ants with their banners and flails watch on one side; the emperor, the 
pope, and the ecclesiastics on the other. Some in 1524 held back in 
the hope that the emperor would call a diet and redress the grievances. 
The diet was not called, and the great Fish unloosed the waters. 

With all this the Reformation had nothing to do. At the same time 
a complete dissociation of the reform from the Peasants' War is not de- 



mgfctogett Comtwctfon fcer ptonefeit/bie im 

. -. . . , 

<ica in jtwym forni n<9 jutrucf<n 



fensible. The attempt to enforce the Edict of Worms through the ar- 
rest of Lutheran ministers was not infrequently the immediate occasion 
for the assembly of peasant bands to demand their release, and Luther 
was regarded as a friend. When some of the peasants were asked to 
name persons whom they would accept as arbiters, the first name on 
the list was that of Martin Luther. No formal court was ever estab- 
lished, and no legal judgment was ever rendered. But Luther did pro- 
nounce a verdict on the demands of the peasants as couched in the most 
popular of their manifestoes, The Twelve Articles. These opened with 
phrases reminiscent of Luther himself. "To the Christian reader, peace 

and the grace of God through Christ The gospel is not a cause of 

rebellion and disturbance." Rather those who refuse such reasonable 
demands are themselves the disturbers. "If it be the will of God to hear 
the peasants, who will resist His Majesty? Did he not hear the children 
of Israel and deliver them out of the hand of Pharaoh?" The first 
articles have to do with the Church. The congregation should have 
the right to appoint and remove the minister, who is obligated to 
"preach the Holy Gospel without human addition," which sounds 
very much like Luther. Ministers are to be supported on a modest 
scale by the congregations out of the so-called great tithe on produce. 
The surplus should go to relieve the poor and to obviate emergency 
taxation in war. The so-called little tithe on cattle should be abolished, 
"for the Lord God created cattle for the free use of man." The main 
articles embodied the old agrarian program of common fields, forests, 
waters. The farmer should be free to hunt, to fish, and to protect his 
lands against game. Under supervision he might take wood for fire and 
for building. Death dues, which impoverished the widow and orphan 
by requisitioning the best cloak or the best cow, were to be abolished. 
Rents should be revised in accord with the productivity of the land. 
New laws should not displace the old, and the community meadows 
should not pass into private hands. The only article which exceeded 
the old demands was the one calling for the total abolition of serfdom. 
Land should be held on lease with stipulated conditions. If any labor 
in excess of the agreement was exacted by the lord, he should pay for 
it on a wage basis. The Twelve Articles conceded that any demand not 



consonant with the Word of God should be null. The whole program 
was conservative, in line with the old feudal economy. There was. 
notably no attack on government. 

The evangelical ring of the articles pleased Luther, but in addressing 
the peasants he disparaged most of their demands. As to the right of 
the congregation to choose its own minister, that depends upon 
whether they pay him. Even if they do and the princes will not toler- 
ate them, they should rather emigrate than rebel. The abolition of 
tithes is highway robbery, and the abrogation of serfdom is making 
Christian liberty into a thing of the flesh. Having thus criticized the 
program, Luther then turned to the means employed for its realiza- 
tion. Under no circumstances must the common man seize the sword 
on his own behalf. If each man were to take justice into his own 
hands, then there would be "neither authority, government, nor or- 
der nor land, but only murder and bloodshed." But all this was not 
intended to justify the unspeakable wrongs perpetrated by the rulers. 
To the princes Luther addressed an appeal in which he justified many 
more of the peasant demands than he had done when speaking to them. 
The will of the congregation should be regarded in the choice of a 
minister. The demands of the peasants for redress of their grievances 
were fair and just. The princes had none but themselves to thank for 
these disorders, since they had done nothing but disport themselves in 
grandeur while robbing and flaying their subjects. The true solution 
was the old way of arbitration. 

But that way neither side was disposed to take, and the prediction 
of Luther was all too abundantly fulfilled, that nothing would ensue 
but murder and bloodshed. Luther had long since declared that he 
would never support the private citizen in arms, however just the 
cause, since such means inevitably entailed wrong to the innocent. 
He could not envisage an orderly revolution. And how there could 
have been one in the sixteenth century is difficult to conceive, since 
the facilities were inadequate for the forging of a united front by either 
persuasion or force. A minority could not then seize the machinery 
of the state and by technological warfare impose its will upon the 
community, nor were modern means of propaganda available. 



The Peasants' War lacked the cohesion of the Puritan revolution 
because there was no clear-cut program and no coherent leadership. 
Some groups wanted a peasant dictatorship, some a classless society, 
some a return to feudalism, some the abolition of all rulers save the 
pope and the emperor. The chiefs were sometimes peasants, sometimes 
sectaries, sometimes even knights. The separate bands were not co- 
ordinated. There was not even unity of religion because Catholics 
and Protestants were on both sides. In Alsace, where the program 
called for the elimination of the pope, the struggle took on the com- 
plexion of a religious war; and the duke and his brother the cardinal 
hunted the peasants as "unbelieving, divisive, undisciplined Lutherans, 
ravaging like Huns and Vandals." There can be no question that the 
hordes were undisciplined, interested mainly in pillaging castles and 
cloisters, raiding game, and depleting fish ponds. 

The drawing below of the plundering of a cloister is typical of 
the Peasants' War. Observe the group in the upper left with a net in 



the fish pond. Some are carrying off provisions. The bloodshed is in- 
considerable. One man only has lost a hand. At various points peasants 
are guzzling and vomiting, justifying the stricture that the struggle 
was not so much a peasants' war as a wine war. 

Another glimpse of their behavior is afforded by a letter of an ab- 
bess who says that her cloister was raided till not an egg or a pat of 
butter was left. Through their windows the nuns could see the popu- 
lace abused and the smoke rising from burning castles. When the war 
ended, 70 cloisters had been demolished in Thuringia, and in Fran- 
conia 270 castles and 52 cloisters. When the Palatinate succumbed to 
the peasants, the disorder was so great that their own leaders had to 
invite the former authorities to return to assist in the restoration of 
order. But the authorities preferred to wait until the peasants had 
first been beaten. 

Could it have been otherwise? Was there any person who could 
have conceived and carried through a constructive plan for adjust- 
ing the peasant to the new political and economic order? The most 



strategic person would have been an emperor, but no emperor would 
essay the role. There was only one other who was sufficiently known 
and trusted throughout Germany to have done it. That man was Mar- 
tin Luther, and he refused. For him as a minister to take the sword and 
lead the peasants would have been to forsake his office as he conceived 
it. He had not demolished the papal theocracy to set up in its place a 
new theocracy of saints or peasants. The magistrate should keep the 
peace. The magistrate should wield the sword. Not for Luther the 
role of a Ziska at the head of the Hussite hordes, or of a Cromwell 
leading the Ironsides. 


Yet Luther would never have condemned the peasants quite so 
savagely ha.d it not been that someone else essayed the very role 
which he abhorred. In Saxony there would have been no Peasants' 
War without Thomas Miintzer. Banished, he had gone to Bohemia, 
then had returned and insinuated himself into a Saxon village, won 
control over the government, and now at last in the peasants dis- 
covered the Bund of the elect who should slaughter the ungodly and 
erect the kingdom of the saints. The point was not the redress of 
economic grievance, which in Saxony was not acute since serfdom 
had long since been abolished. Miintzer was interested in economic 
amelioration only for the sake of religion, and he did have the insight 
to see what no one else in his generation observed, that faith itself does 
not thrive on physical exhaustion. He exclaimed: 

Luther says that the poor people have enough in their faith. Doesn't 
he see that usury and taxes impede the reception of the faith? He claims 
that the Word of God is sufficient. Doesn't he realize that men whose 
every moment is consumed in the making of a living have no time to 
learn to read the Word of God? The princes bleed the people with usury 
and count as their own the fish in the stream, the bkd of the air, and the 
grass of the field, and Dr. Liar says, "Amen!" What courage has he, Dr. 
Pussyfoot, the new pope of Wittenberg, Dr. Easychair, the basking 
sycophant? He says there should be no rebellion because the sword has 
been committed by God to the ruler, but the power of the sword be- 
longs to the whole community. In the good old days the people stood by 



when judgment was rendered lest the ruler pervert justice, and the rulers 
have perverted justice. They shall be cast down from their seats. The 
fowls of the heavens are gathering to devour their carcasses. 

In such a mood Miintzer came to Miilhausen, and there he was re- 
sponsible for fomenting a peasants' war. In front of the pulpit he un- 
furled a long, silk banner, emblazoned with a rainbow and the motto, 
"The Word of the Lord Abideth Forever." "Now is the time," he 
cried. "If you be only three wholly committed unto God, you need 
not fear one hundred thousand. On! On! On! Spare not! Pity not the 
godless when they cry. Remember the command of God to Moses 
to destroy utterly and show no mercy. The whole countryside is in 
commotion. Strike! Clang! Clang! On! On!" 

The countryside was indeed in commotion. The peasants had been 
thoroughly aroused. And Frederick the Wise was weary and at the 
point of death. To his brother John he wrote: "Perhaps the peasants 
have been given just occasion for their uprising through the impeding 
of the Word of God. In many ways the poor folk have been wronged 
by the rulers, and now God is visiting his wrath upon us. If it be his 
will, the common man will come to rule; and if it be not his will, the 
end will soon be otherwise. Let us then pray to God to forgive our 
sins, and commit the case to him. He will work it out according to 
his good pleasure and glory." Brother John yielded to the peasants 
the right of the government to collect tithes. To Frederick he wrote, 
"As princes we are ruined." 

Luther tried to dike the deluge by going down into the midst of 
the peasants and remonstrating. They met him with derision and 
violence. Then he penned the tract, Against the Murderous and 
Thieving Hordes of Peasants. To his mind hell had been emptied be- 
cause all the devils had gone into the peasants, and the archdevil was 
in Thomas Miintzer, "who does nothing else but stir up robbery, 
murder, and bloodshed." A Christian ruler like Frederick the Wise 
should, indeed, search his heart and humbly pray for help against the 
Devil, since our "warfare is not with flesh and blood but with spiritual 
wickedness." The prince, moreover, should exceed his duty in offer- 


pfalm, wj 




ing terms to the mad peasants. If they decline, then he must quickly 
grasp the sword. Luther had no use for the plan of Frederick the 
Wise to sit still and leave the outcome to the Lord. Philip of Hesse 
was more to his taste, who said, "If I hadn't been quick on my toes, 
the whole movement in my district would have been out of hand 
in four days." 
Luther said: 

If the peasant is in open rebellion, then he is outside the law of God, 
for rebellion is not simply murder, but it is like a great fire which attacks 
and lays waste a whole land. Thus, rebellion brings with it a land full of 
murders and bloodshed, makes widows and orphans, and turns everything 
upside down like a great disaster. Therefore, let everyone who can, smite, 
slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more 
poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must 
kill a mad dog; if you don't strike him, he will strike you, and the whole 
land with you. 

Some of the princes were only too ready to smite, stab, and slay; 
and Thomas Miintzer was only too prompt to provoke them. Duke 
George and Landgrave Philip, among others, were quick enough on 
their toes. Miintzer and the peasants were drawn up near Franken- 
hausen. They sent word to the princes that they sought nothing but 
the righteousness of God and desired to avoid bloodshed. The princes 
replied, "Deliver up Thomas Miintzer. The rest shall be spared." The 
offer was tempting, but Miintzer loosed his eloquence: "Fear not. 
Gideon with a handful discomfited the Midianites, and David slew 
Goliath." Just at that moment a rainbow appeared in the sky, the 
very symbol on Miintzer's banner. He pointed to it as a sign. The 
peasants rallied. But the princes took advantage of a truce to surround 
them. Only six hundred were taken prisoner. Five thousand were 
butchered. Miintzer escaped, but was caught, tortured, and beheaded. 
The princes then cleaned up the countryside. 


Other bands fared no better. The forces of the Swabian League 
were led by a general who when outnumbered would have recourse 



to diplomacy, duplicity, strategy, and at last combat. He managed 
to isolate the bands and destroy them one at a time. The peasants were 
tricked and finally outnumbered. It was claimed that 100,000 were 
liquidated. On the day when Bishop Conrad rode in triumph into 
Wiirzburg, the event was celebrated with the execution of 64 citizens 
and peasants. Then the bishop made a tour of his diocese, accom- 
panied by his executioner, who took care of 272 persons. Excessive 
fines were imposed, yet the peasants as a class were not exterminated; 
the nobles could not afford to wipe out the tillers of the soil. Neither 
was their prosperity destroyed, for they were able to pay the fines, 
but their hope for a share in the political life of Germany was at an 
end. For three centuries they became hornless oxen. 

Unhappily Luther's savage tract was late in leaving the press and 
appeared just at the time when the peasants were being butchered. 
He tried to counteract the effect by another pamphlet in which he 
still said that the ears of the rebels must be unbuttoned with bullets, 
but he had no mind to decry mercy to captives. All the devils, he de- 
clared, instead of leaving the peasants and returning to hell, had now 
entered the victors, who were simply venting their vengeance. 

But this tract was not noticed, and that one sentence of Luther's, 
"smite, slay, and stab," brought him obloquy never to be forgotten. 
He was reproached by the peasants as a traitor to their cause, though 
he never ceased to be held responsible by the Catholic princes for 
the entire conflagration. The peasants in consequence tended to find 
their religious home in Anabaptism, though this point must not be 
overdone. The ultimate agrarian complexion of the Anabaptist move- 
ment is not by any means wholly the result of the Peasants' War but 
much more of the persecution which could more readily purge the 
cities than the farms. Neither did the peasants secede en masse, and to 
the end of his life Luther's congregation consisted largely of the 
farmers around about Wittenberg. Nevertheless, Luther's stand was 
contributory to the alienation of the peasants. 

At the same time the Catholic princes held Luther responsible 
for the whole outbreak, and color was lent to the charge by the 
participation on the peasants' side of hundreds of Lutheran ministers, 



: slaughter of peasants. BOTTOM: surrender. 


whether voluntarily or under constraint. The rulers in Catholic lands 
thereafter used the utmost diligence to exclude evangelical preachers, 
and the persistent Catholicism of Bavaria and Austria dates not so 
much from the Counter Reformation as from the Peasants' War. 

The deepest hurt was to Luther's own spirit. He became afraid, 
not of God, not of the Devil, not of himself, but of chaos. Fear was 
to make him at times hard and undiscriminating, ready to condone 
the suppression of the innocuous lest in them might be concealed 
incipient Thomas Miintzers. 

The sphere, then, of Luther's activity was being constantly cur- 
tailed. The Catholics, whether clerical or lay, were obdurate. The 
Swiss, the south German Protestant cities, and the Anabaptists had 
developed divergent forms. Even Wittenberg had experienced insur- 
gent movements and might not be free from new infiltrations of the 
sectaries. But in the areas remaining Luther was resolved to build. 








AFFLED, rebuffed, curtailed, restricted, Lu- 
ther did what he could. The most unpremedi- 
tated and dramatic witness to his principles 
was his own marriage. If he could not re- 
form all Christendom, at any rate he could 
and he did establish the Protestant parsonage. 
He had no thought of doing anything of the 
sort; and when the monks began to marry dur- 
ing his stay at the Wartburg, he had exclaimed, "Good heavens! They 
won't give me a wife." After the event he said that if anyone had told 
him at Worms that in six years he would have a wife he would not 
have believed him. 

But a practical situation arose out of his teaching which caused a 
change of mind. Not only monks but also nuns were leaving the 
cloisters. Some sisters in a neighboring village sought his counsel as 
to what they should do in view of their evangelical persuasion. He 
took it upon himself to arrange their escape. This was hardy because 
the abduction of nuns was a capital offense, and Duke George ex- 
acted the penalty. Frederick the Wise might not be so severe, but he 
did not relish open violation of the law. Luther clandestinely enlisted 
the aid of a respected burgher of Torgau, Leonard Kopp, sixty years 
of age, a merchant who from time to time delivered barrels of herring 
to the convent. On the Eve of the Resurrection in 1523 he bundled 
twelve nuns into his covered wagon as if they were empty barrels. 
Three returned to their own homes. The remaining nine arrived in 
Wittenberg. A student reported to a friend, "A wagon load of vestal 



virgins has just come to town, all more eager for marriage than for 
life. God grant them husbands lest worse befall." 

Luther felt responsible to find for them all homes, husbands, or 
positions of some sort. An obvious solution was that he should dispose 
of one case by marrying himself. Someone suggested it. His comment 
on November 30, 1524, was that he had no such intention, not be- 
cause he was a sexless stone, nor because he was hostile to marriage, but 
because he expected daily the death of a heretic. Five months later 
Spalatin had apparently renewed the suggestion. He answered: 

As for what you write about my marrying, do not be surprised that I 
do not wed, even if I am so famous a lover. You should be more surprised 
when I write so much about marriage and in this way have so much to 
do with women that I do not turn into a woman, let alone marry one. 
Although if you want my example you have it abundantly, for I have 
had three wives at once and have loved them so hard as to lose two to 
other husbands. The third I hold barely with my left hand, and she is 
perhaps about to be snatched from me. You are really the timid lover who 
do not dare to marry even one. 

The jocular reference to the three wives was of course to the three 
last nuns waiting to be placed. 


In the end all were provided for save one, Katherine von Bora. Two 
years after the escape she was still in domestic service, where inciden- 
tally she received excellent training, but she was awaiting a better 
solution and had been intended for a young patrician of Niirnberg, 
studying at Wittenberg. On his return home his family presumably 
objected. Katherine was disconsolate and asked Luther to find out 
how things stood. The outcome was that the Niirnberger married 
someone else. Then Luther made another selection and picked for 
Katherine a certain Dr. Glatz, whom she would accept on no terms. 
But her position was delicate. She knew well that the whole affair 
had been a trial to Luther, doubly so that it fell in the midst of the 
Peasants' War, and her case had been the most protracted. In those 



days of early marriages a girl of twenty-six might begin to think of 
herself as verging on the upper limits of eligibility. In her embarrass- 
ment she bespoke the good offices of a visitor in Wittenberg, Dr. 
Amsdorf of Magdeburg. Would he please tell Luther that she could 
not abide Glatz but she was not unreasonable? She would take Ams- 
dorf himself or Luther. These two were named presumably because 
they were out of the question, since beyond the customary age for 
marriage. Luther was forty-two. 

He did not respond seriously to the suggestion until he went home 
to visit his parents. What he related, probably as a huge joke, was 
taken by his father as a realistic proposal. His desire was that his son 
should pass on the name. The suggestion began to commend itself to 
Luther for quite another reason. If he was to be burned at the stake 
within a year, he was hardly the person to start a family. But by mar- 
riage he could at once give a status to {Catherine and a testimony to 
his faith. In May of 1525 he intimated that he would marry Katie be- 
fore he died. And early in June, when Albert of Mainz contemplated 
secularizing his bishopric after the example of his cousin in Branden- 
burg, Luther wrote, "If my marrying will strengthen him, I am ready. 
I believe in marriage, and I intend to get married before I die, even 
though it should be only a betrothal like Joseph's." This was no love 
match. "I am not infatuated," said Luther, "though I cherish my 
wife." On another occasion he declared, "I would not exchange Katie 
for France or for Venice, because God has given her to me and other 
women have worse faults." He summed up by giving three reasons 
for his marriage: to please his father, to spite the pope and the Devil, 
and to seal his witness before martyrdom. 

When once the resolve was taken, marriage followed speedily to 
scotch rumor and protest. "All my best friends," said Luther, "ex- 
claimed, Tor heaven's sake, not this one.' " A jurist predicted that 
"the world and the Devil would laugh and Luther's work would be 
undone." Curiously at that very juncture Spalatin asked Luther what 
he thought of long engagements. He replied, "Don't put off till 
tomorrow! By delay Hannibal lost Rome. By delay Esau forfeited his 
birthright. Christ said, 'Ye shall seek me, and ye shall not find.' Thus 



Scripture, experience, and all creation testify that the gifts of God 
must be taken on the wing." That was on the tenth of June. On the 
thirteenth Luther was publicly betrothed to Katherine and, in the 


This is not the betrothal, 'which established the legal bond, but the public 
declaration. The party first paraded through the streets to the sound of the 

eyes of the law, was thereby already a married man. The public cere- 
mony which followed was only an announcement party. 

This was the social event. It was set for the twenty-seventh, and 
Luther sent out letters of invitation: To Spalatin, "You must come to 
my wedding. I have made the angels laugh and the devils weep." To 
another, "Undoubtedly the rumor of my marriage has reached you. 
I can hardly believe itmyself, but the witnesses are too strong. The 
wedding will be next Thursday in the presence of my father and 
mother. I hope you can bring some game and come yourself." To 



Amsdorf, who had mediated for Katie, "The rumor of my marriage 
is correct. I cannot deny my father the hope of progeny, and I had to 
confirm my teaching at a time when many are so timid. I hope you 
will come." To a Niirnberger, "My tract has greatly offended the 
peasants. I'd be sorry if it had not. While I was thinking of other 
things, God has suddenly brought me to marriage with Katherine. I 
invite you and absolve you from any thought of a present." To 
Leonard Kopp, who organized the escape of the nuns, "I am going to 
get married. God likes to work miracles and to make a fool of the 
world. You must come to the wedding." Curiously there is a second 
invitation to Kopp. The editor of the letters in the Weimar edition 
questions the authenticity. It reads, "I am to be married on Thursday. 
My lord Katie and I invite you to send a barrel of the best Torgau 
beer, and if it is not good you will have to drink it all yourself." 

On the appointed day at ten o'clock in the morning Luther led 
Katherine to the sound of bells through the streets of Wittenberg to 
the parish church, where at the portal in the sight of all the people 
the religious ceremony was observed. Then came a banquet in the 
Augustinian cloister, and after dinner a dance at the town hall. In 
the evening there was another banquet. At eleven all the guests took 
their departure on pain of being sent home by the magistrates. 


Marriage brought many changes to Luther's way of living. "Be- 
fore I was married the bed was not made for a whole year and became 
foul with sweat. But I worked so hard and was so weary I tumbled 
in without noticing it." Katie cleaned house. There were other ad- 
justments to be made. "There is a lot to get used to in the first year 
of marriage," reflected Luther. "One wakes up in the morning and 
finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before." 
He soon discovered that a husband must take the wishes of his wife 
into account. The fears and tears of Katie restrained him from at- 
tending Spalatin's wedding, in view of the danger of violence from 
peasants on the way. If Martin referred jocularly to his wife as "my 
rib," he called her quite as often "my lord." Sometimes he even punned 



upon the name Katie and turned it in German into Kette, meaning 

Marriage also brought new financial responsibilities, because 
neither of them started with a cent. Katherine's mother died when 
she was a baby. Her father consigned her to a convent and married 
again. He did nothing for her now. Luther had only his books and 
his clothes. He was not entitled to the revenues of the cloister, since 
he had abandoned the cowl. He took never a penny from his books, 
and his university stipend was not enough for matrimony* lit 1526 
he installed a lathe and learned woodworking that in ease of need he 
might be able to support his family. But one may doubt whether he 
ever took this thought very seriously. He was minded to give him- 
self exclusively to the service of the Word, and he trusted that the 
heavenly Father would provide. The angel Gabriel must have been 
kept rather busy making suggestions to men of substance in Luther's 
entourage. The elector made over the Augustinian cloister to Lu- 
ther and his bride, doubled his salary, and frequently sent game, 
clothes, and wine. And the Archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Bnmdcn- 



burg, presented Katie with twenty gold gulden which her husband 
was disposed to decline. 

If marriage brought new responsibilities for Luther, vastly more 
was this the case for Katie. Keeping house for so improvident a hus- 
band was no light task. His giving was so prodigal that Lucas Cranach, 
the artist and banker, refused to honor his draft. Luther's comment 
was, "I do not believe I can be accused of niggardliness." He was ir- 
ritatingly blithe. "I do not worry about debts," he said, "because when 
Katie pays one, another comes." She watched him, and she needed to 
watch him. In one letter he says to a friend, "I am sending you a vase 
as a wedding present. P.S. Katie's hid it." At one point he was of real 
help. He took care of the garden, which produced lettuce, cabbage, 
peas, beans, melons, and cucumbers. Katie looked after an orchard 
beyond the village, which supplied them with apples, grapes, pears, 
nuts, and peaches. She had also a fish pond from which she netted 
trout, carp, pike, and perch. She looked after the barnyard with hens, 
ducks, pigs, and cows, and did the slaughtering herself. Luther gives 
a glimpse into her activities in a letter of 1535: "My lord Katie greets 
you. She plants our fields, pastures and sells cows, et cetera [how 
much does that et cetera cover? ] . In between she has started to read 
the Bible. I have promised her 50 gulden [where did he expect to get 
them? ] if she finishes by Easter. She is hard at it and is at the end of 
the fifth book of Moses." In later years he acquired a farm at Zulsdorf, 
which Katie managed, spending there some weeks out of the year. 
Luther wrote her on such occasions: "To the rich lady of Zulsdorf, 
Mrs. Dr. Katherine Luther, who lives in the flesh at Wittenberg but 
in the spirit at Zulsdorf," and again, "To my beloved wife, Katherine, 
Mrs. Dr. Luther, mistress of the pig market, lady of Zulsdorf, and 
whatsoever other titles may befit thy Grace." 

Looking after him was the more of a task because he was so often 
sick. He suffered at one time or another from gout, insomnia, catarrh, 
hemorrhoids, constipation, stone, dizziness, and ringing in the ears like 
all the bells of Halle, Leipzig, Erfurt, and Wittenberg. Katie was a 
master of herbs, poultices, and massage. Her son Paul, who became a 
doctor, said his mother was half one. She kept Luther from wine and 



gave him beer, which served as a sedative for insomnia and a solvent 
for the stone. And she brewed the beer herself. When he was away 
from home, how he appreciated her ministrations! After a year of 
marriage he wrote to a friend, "My Katie is in all things so obliging 
and pleasing to me that I would not exchange my poverty for the 
riches of Croesus." He paid her the highest tribute when he called 
St. Paul's epistle to the Galatians "my Katherine von Bora." He be- 
gan to be a trifle worried over his devotion: "I give more credit to 
Katherine than to Christ, who has done so much more for me." 


Katie had soon more than Luther to think about. On October 21, 
1525, Luther confided to a friend, "My Katherine is fulfilling Genesis 
1:28." On May 26, 1526, he wrote to another, "There is about to be 
born a child of a monk and a nun. Such a child must have a great lord 
for godfather. Therefore I am inviting you. I cannot be precise as to 
the time." On the eighth of June went out the news, "My dear Katie 
brought into the world yesterday by God's grace at two o'clock a 
little son, Hans Luther. I must stop. Sick Katie calls me." When the 
baby was bound in swaddling clothes, Luther said, "Kick, little fellow. 
That is what the pope did to me, but I got loose." The next entry in 
Hans's curriculum vitae was this: "Hans is cutting his teeth and be- 
ginning to make a joyous nuisance of himself. These arc the joys of 
marriage of which the pope is not worthy." On the arrival of a daugh- 
ter Luther wrote to a prospective godmother, "Dear lady, God has 
produced from me and my wife Katie a little heathen. We hope you 
will be willing to become her spiritual mother and help make her a 
Christian." There were six children in all. Their names and birthdays 
are as follows: Hans, June 7, 1526; Elizabeth, December 10, 1527; 
Magdalena, December 17, 1529; Martin, November 9, 1531; Paul, 
January 28, 1533; Margaretha, December 17, 1534. 

And besides the children there were all those whom the Luthers 
took in. On the very night of the wedding, when the guests had de- 
parted by eleven o'clock, another guest unbeknown to the magistrate 
appeared. It was Carlstadt, fleeing from the Peasants* War and asking 



for shelter; and Luther, who had done so much to put him out of 
Saxony, took him into his own home on his wedding night. Carlstadt 
of course did not stay indefinitely, but others arrived. And since the 
cloister was large and suited for a hospital, the sick also were taken in. 
Furthermore the Luthers brought up four orphaned children from 
among relatives, in addition to their own six. To eke out the finances 
they had recourse to a device familiar in professional families of open- 
ing a pension for student boarders. The household would number 
as many as twenty-five. 

Katie of course could not do all the labor for such an establish- 
ment. There were maidservants and manservants, but she had to 
superintend everything. Perhaps the hardest part of her position, how- 
ever, was that she was invariably overshadowed by her famous hus- 
band. She expected it and did not resent it. She always called him 
Doctor, and used the polite form Sie rather than the familiar Du. Yet 
at times she must have been a trifle disquieted because he was on every 

There is an unpardonable omission. Katie is not there. 


occasion the center of the conversation. It was not altogether his 
fault. The student boarders regarded mealtime as an opportunity to 
continue their education, and sat at table with notebooks to scribble 
down every nugget and every clod from his voluble mouth. Katie 
thought he should have charged them for it. Luther was himself ir- 
ritated at times, though he never put a stop to it. At one point he was 
responsible for stepping in front of the lights. He talked a great deal 
about his bouts with Satan until to have experienced none placed one 
in a lower category. Katie was not to be outdone. One day she arose 
from the table, retired to her room, fainted, and afterwards reported 
that she had experienced wiulta perniciosct, and she announced it in 
Latin. From then on Katie qualified. 

Luther's Table Talk would deserve a notice if for no other reason 
than its sheer volume. There are 6,596 entries, and it is among the 
better known of his works because his students after his death culled, 
classified, and produced a handy volume adorned with a woodcut 
of Luther at the table with his family. The classification obscures the 
lush profusion and unpredictable variety of the original. Luther 
ranged from the ineffable majesty of God the Omnipotent to the 
frogs in the Elbe. Pigs, popes, pregnancies, politics, and proverbs 
jostle one another. Some random samples may convey a faint im- 

The monks are the fleas on God Almighty's fur coat. 

When asked why he was so violent, Luther replied, U A twig can be cut 
with a bread knife, but an oak calls for an ax." 

God uses lust to impel men to marriage, ambition to office, avarice to 
earning, and fear to faith. 

The only portion of the human anatomy which the pope has had to 
leave uncontrolled is the hind end. 

Printing is God's latest and best work to spread the true religion 
throughout the world. 

I am a pillar of the pope. After I am gone he will fare worse. 

Birds lack faith. They fly away when I enter the orchard, though I 
mean them no ill. Even so do we lack faith in Clod. 

There are rumors that the world will end in 1532. I hope it won't be 
long. The last decade seems like a new century. 


A cartoon has appeared of me as a monster with seven heads. I must be 
invincible because they cannot overcome me when I have only one. 

A dog is a most faithful animal and would be more highly prized if 
less common. 

A melancholic claimed to be a rooster and strutted about crowing. The 
doctor said he, too, was a rooster and for several days crowed with him. 
Then he said, "I am not a rooster any more, and you are changed too." 
It worked. 

Germany is the pope's pig. That is why we have to give him so much 
bacon and sausages. 

What lies there are about relics! One claims to have a feather from the 
wing of the angel Gabriel, and the Bishop of Mainz has a flame from 
Moses' burning bush. And how does it happen that eighteen apostles are 
buried in Germany when Christ had only twelve? 

I cannot think what we shall find to do in heaven, mused Luther. "No 
change, no work, no eating, no drinking, nothing to do. I suppose there 
will be plenty to see." "Yes," said Melanchthon, " 'Lord, show us the 
Father, and it sufficeth us.' " "Why, of course," responded Luther, "that 
sight will give us quite enough to do," 

The ark of Noah was 300 ell long, 50 wide, and 30 high. If it were not 
in Scripture, I would not believe it. I would have died if I had been in 
the ark. It was dark, three times the size of my house, and full of animals. 

They are trying to make, me into a fixed star. I am an irregular planet. 

An officer in the Turkish war told his men that if they died in battle 
they would sup with Christ in Paradise. The officer fled. When asked 
why he did not wish to sup with Christ, he said he was fasting that day. 

In 1538 on May the 26th there was a big rain, Luther said, "Praise 
God. He is giving us one hundred thousand gulden worth. It is raining 
corn, wheat, barley, wine, cabbage, onions, grass, and milk. All our 
goods we get for nothing. And God sends his only begotten Son, and we 
crucify him." 

"I am the son of a peasant," said Luther, "and the grandson and the 
great-grandson. My father wanted to make me into a burgomaster. He 
went to Mansfeld and became a miner* I became a baccalaureate and a 
master. Then I became a monk and put off the brown beret. My father 
didn't like it, and then I got into the pope's hair and married an apostate 
nun. Who could have read that in the stars?" 

The above selections speak well enough for themselves, but a 
word of comment is in order with regard to Luther's vulgarity, be* 


Sacrament; fee* 2ltar* 

One head is a fanatic with <wa$ps in his hair. 


cause he is often represented as inordinately coarse, and the Table 
Talk is cited by way of example. There is no denying that he was 
not fastidious, nor was his generation. Life itself stank. One could not 
walk around Wittenberg without encountering the odors of the 
pigsty, offal, and the slaughterhouse. And even the most genteel 
were not reticent about the facts of daily experience. Katie, when 
asked about the congregation on a day when Luther was unable to 
attend, replied, "The church was so full it stank." "Yes," said Luther, 
"they had manure on their boots." Erasmus did not hesitate to com- 
pose a colloquy in which the butcher and the fishmonger celebrated 
the offensiveness of each other's wares. Luther delighted less in muck 
than many of the literary men of his age; but if he did indulge, he ex- 
celled in this as in every other area of speech. The volume of coarse- 
ness, however, in his total output is slight. Detractors have sifted from 
the pitchblende of his ninety tomes a few pages of radioactive vul- 
garity. But there are whole volumes which contain nothing more 
offensive than a quotation from the apostle Paul, who "suffered the 
loss of all things," and counted them but dung, that he might win 

A word may be said at this point also about Luther's drinking. He 
imbibed and took some pride in his capacity. He had a mug around 
which were three rings. The first he said represented the Ten Com- 
mandments, the second the Apostles' Creed, and the third the Lord's 
Prayer* Luther was highly amused that he was able to drain the glass 
of wine through the Lord's Prayer, whereas his friend Agricola could 
not get beyond the Ten Commandments. But Luther is not recorded 
ever to have exceeded a state of hilarity. 


But to return to marriage. The Luther who got married in order 
to testify to his faith actually founded a home and did more than 
any other person to determine the tone of German domestic relations 
for the next four centuries. We may conveniently at this point con- 
sider his views on marriage. Here as elsewhere he walked in the steps 
of Paul and Augustine. His position with regard to marriage was tinc- 



tured throughout by patriarchalism. According to Luther the man 
is the head of the wife because he was created first. She is to give 
him not only love but also honor and obedience. He is to rule her 
with gentleness, but he is to rule. She has her sphere, and she can do 
more with the children with one finger than he with two fists. But she 
is to confine herself to her sphere. If Luther did not say that children, 
church, and kitchen are the province of women, he did say that women 
have been created with large hips in order that they should stay at home 
and sit on them. Children are subject to parents and especially to the 
father, who exercises in the household the same sort of authority as 
does the magistrate in the state. Disrespect for parents is a breach of 
the Ten Commandments. On one occasion Luther refused to forgive 
his son for three days, although the boy begged his pardon and Katie 
and others interceded. The point was that the boy in disobeying his 
father had offended the majesty of God. If only Luther could have 
left God out of it now and then, he would have been more humane. 
Yet it must be remembered that in his judgment the apple should al- 
ways lie alongside of the rod. 

The whole institution of marriage was set by Luther within the 
framework of family relationships. There was no room left for the 
exercise of unbridled individualism. Matings should be made by fami- 
lies; and whereas parents should not force children to repulsive unions, 
children in turn should not, because of infatuations, resist reasonable 
choices on the part of their elders. This whole picture was carried 
directly over from the Middle Ages, in which Catholic sacramcntalism 
and agrarian society tended to make of marriage an institution for 
the perpetuation of families and the preservation of properties. The 
romantic revolution of the Courts of Love in France was at first ex~ 
tramatrimonial, and the combination of romance and marriage was 
effected only during the Renaissance. 

To these currents Luther was entirely a stranger. His ideal was 
Rebecca, who accepted the mate selected for her by the family, Jacob 
was reprehensible in his eyes because after receiving Leah, who bore 
him children, he worked yet seven other years out of infatuation for 
the pretty face of Rachel. Luther was glad, however, of this failing 



because it proved that he was saved by faith and not by works. But if 
in this respect Luther followed the medieval view, on other counts 
he broke with it, and notably in the rejection of virginity as an ideal. 
By this move the way was open for the romanticizing and refinement 
of marriage. But its immediate effect was rather the contrary. In Lu- 
ther's early polemic, marriage was reduced to the most elemental 
physical level because in order to repulse ecclesiastical interference 
Luther insisted that sexual intercourse is as necessary and inevitable as 
eating and drinking. Those not gifted with chastity must find gratifi- 
cation. To refuse them is to prefer fornication to wedlock. In inter- 
preting these words, however, one must be careful. Luther did not 
really mean that external chastity is impossible, but merely that without 
sexual satisfaction many will be tormented by desire, and for that 
reason marriage is a purer state than monasticism. The controversial 
tracts, however, up to 1525 are certainly unguarded in creating the 
impression that the sole object of marriage is to serve as a remedy for 

But after his own wedding the emphasis shifted, and he began to 

portray marriage as a school for character. In this sense it displaces the 

monastery, which had been regarded by the Church as the training 

ground of virtue and the surest way to heaven. Luther in rejecting all 

earning of salvation did not exclude exercise in fortitude, patience, 

charity, and humility. Family life is exacting. The head of the house 

has the lifelong worry over daily bread. The wife has the bearing of 

children. During pregnancy she suffers from dizziness, headache, 

nausea, toothache, and swelling of the legs* In travail her husband may 

comfort her by saying, "Think, dear Greta, that you are a woman and 

your work is pleasing to God. Rejoice in his will. Bring forth the child. 

Should you die, it is for a noble work and in obedience to God. If you 

were not a woman, you should wish to be one, that you might suffer 

and die in so precious and noble a work of God/' The rearing of 

children is a trial for both parents. To one of his youngsters Luther 

said, "Child, what have you done that I should love you so? You have 

disturbed the whole household with your bawling." And when a baby 

cried for an hour and the parents were at the end of their resources, 



he remarked, "This is the sort of thing that has caused the Church 
fathers to vilify marriage. But God before the last day has brought 
back marriage and the magistracy to their proper esteem." The mother 
of course has the brunt of it. But the father may have to hang out the 
diapers, to the neighbors' amusement. "Let them laugh, God and the 
angels smile in heaven." 

There are vexations between the married couple. "Good God," 
ejaculated Luther, "what a lot of trouble there is in marriage! Adam 
has made a mess of our nature. Think of all the squabbles Adam and 
Eve must have had in the course of their nine hundred years. Eve 
would say, 'You ate the apple,' and Adam would retort, Tou gave it 

to me.' " 

Luther once at the table was expatiating with gusto in response 
to student questions. When he paused, Katie broke in, "Doctor, why 
don't you stop talking and eat?" 

"I wish," snapped Luther, "that women would repeat the Lord's 
Prayer before opening their mouths." The students tried to get him 
on the track again, but he was derailed for that meal. 

On occasion Katie could have well returned the compliment. Once 
she was praying out loud for rain, and Luther broke in, "Yes, why not, 
Lord? We have persecuted thy Word and killed thy saints* We 
have deserved well of thee." 

Part of the difficulty was that the rhythm of work and rest did not 
coincide for Luther and his wife. After a day with children, animals, 
and servants, she wanted to talk with an equal; and he, after preach-* 
ing four times, lecturing and conversing with students at meals, wanted 
to drop into a chair and sink into a book. Then Katie would start in, 
"Herr Doktor, is the prime minister of Prussia the Duke's brother?" 

"All my life is patience," said Luther. "I have to have patience with 
the pope, the heretics, my family, arid Katie." But he recognized 
that it was good for him. 

Nor should it be for a moment supposed that he excluded love from 
marriage. Of course the Christian should love his wife, said Luther. 
He is bound to love his neighbor as himself. His wife is his nearest 
neighbor. Therefore she should be his dearest friend. And Luther 



signed himself to Katie, Dir lieb und treu. The greatest grace of God 
is when love persists in marriage* "The first love is drunken. When the 
intoxication wears off, then comes the real married love." The couple 
should study to be pleasing to each other. In the old days this sound 
advice was given to the bride: "My dear, make your husband glad 
to cross his threshold at night"; and to the groom, "Make your wife 
sorry to have you leave." "The dearest life is to live with a godly, 
willing;, obedient wife in peace and unity." "Union of the flesh does 
nothing. There must also be union of manners and mind." "Katie, you 
have a husband that loves you. Let someone else be empress." 

When Katie was ill, Luther exclaimed, "Oh, Katie, do not die and 
leave me," 

When he was ill and thought he was about to die, he turned to his 
wife. "My dearest Katie, if it be God's will accept it. You are mine. 
You will rest assured of that, and hold to God's word. I did want to 
write another book on baptism, but God's will be done. May he 
care for you and Hans." 

Katie answered, "My dear Doctor, if it is God's will I would rather 
have you with our Lord than here. But I am not thinking just of 
myself and Hans. There are so many people that need you* But don't 
worry about us. God will take care of us." 


Luther thoroughly enjoyed his home. Once his colleague Jonas 
remarked that he saw the blessing of God in fruit and for that reason 
had hung a cherry bough above his table. Luther said, "Why don't 
you think of your children? They are in front of you all the time, 
and you will learn from them more than from a cherry bough." But 
there was no sentimentality in what Luther expected him to learn. 
"O dear God, how Adam must have loved Cain, and yet he turned 
out to be the murderer of his brother." When Luther looked at his 
family in 1538, he remarked, "Christ said we must become as little 
children to enter the kingdom of heaven. Dear God, this is too much. 
Have we got to become such idiots?" One wonders whether the chil- 
dren were ever minded to wonder who was the idiot when Luther 



cut up Hans's pants to mend his own. Yet what child would not 
cheerfully forgive a father who wrote to him a letter like this? 
On August 22, 1530, Luther wrote to Hans, then four years old: 

My dearest son: 

I am glad to know that you learn well and pray hard. Keep on, my 
lad, and when I come home, I'll bring you a whole fair. 

I know a lovely garden where many children in golden frocks gather 
rosy apples under the trees, as well as pears, cherries, and plums. They 
sing, skip, and are gay. And they have fine ponies with golden bridles 
and silver saddles. I asked the gardener who were these children, and he 
said, "They are the children who like to pray and learn and be good." 
And I said, "Good man, I too have a son, and his name is Hans Luther. 
Couldn't he come into the garden, too, and eat the rosy apples and the 
pears and ride a fine pony and play with these children?" And the man 
said, "If he likes to pray and learn and be good, he too may come into 
the garden, and Lippus and Jost [the sons of Melanchthon and Jonas] as 
well; and when they all come together, they shall have golden whistles 
and drums and fine silver crossbows." But it was early, and the children 
had not yet had their breakfasts, so I couldn't wait for the dance. I said 
to the man, "I will go at once and write all this to my clear son Hans that he 
may work hard, pray well, and be good, so that he too may come into 
this garden. But he has an Aunt Lena he'll have to bring too." "That will 
be all right," said he. "Go and write this to him." 

So, my darling son, study and pray hard and tell Lippus and Jost to do 
this too, so that you may all come together into the garden. May the 
dear God take care of you. Give my best to Auntie Lena and give her a 
kiss for me. 

Your loving father, 

Luther reveled in household festivities and may well have composed 
for Hans and Lenchen the Christmas pageant Von Hhnwcl Uoch 
with its delightful, childlike quality. Equally charming is this brief 

Our little Lord, we give thce praise 
That thou has deigned to take our ways. 
Born of a maid a man to be, 
And all the angels sing to thee. 


The eternal Father's Son he lay 

Cradled in a crib of hay. 

The everlasting God appears 

In our frail flesh and blood and tears. 

What the globe could not enwrap 
Nestled lies in Mary's lap. 
Just a baby, very wee, 
Yet Lord of all the world is he. 

When Magdalena was fourteen years old, she lay upon her deathbed. 
Luther prayed, "O God, I love her so, but thy will be done." And 
turning to her, "Magdalenchen, my little girl, you would like to stay 
with your father here and you would be glad to go to your Father in 

And she said, "Yes, dear father, as God wills.** 

And Luther reproached himself because God had blessed him 
as no bishop had been blessed in a thousand years, and yet he could 
not find it in his heart to give God thanks. Katie stood off, overcome 
by grief; and Luther held the child in his arms as she passed on. When 
she was laid away, he said, "Du liebes Lenichen, you will rise and shine 
like the stars and the sun. How strange it is to know that she is at peace 
and all is well, and yet to be so sorrowful!'* 




OWEVER much Luther's activity may have been 
curtailed by defections, he did found a church. 
Feverish missionary activity was to win most 
of northern Germany within a decade for 
the Reform. This success was achieved through 
a wave of propaganda unequaled hitherto and 
in its precise form never repeated. The pri- 
mary tools were the tract and the cartoon. 
The number of pamphlets issued in Germany in the four years 1521 
through 1524 exceeds the quantity for any other four years of 
German history until the present. This is not to say, of course, that 
there was more reading than after the introduction of the newspaper 
and periodical, but only that the tracts were more numerous. In all 
this Luther himself took the lead, and his own pamphlets in the 
vernacular run into the hundreds; but a vast cohort assisted him, and 
the printers who brought out these highly controversial materials 
were an intrepid breed who risked their establishments and their 
lives. The cohesiveness and adroitness of this underground is striking- 
ly exemplified in the case of a press which issued, without any identi- 
fying marks, an attack on the Bishop of Constance for tolerating 
and taxing priests' bastards. Two hundred other works can be traced 
by the paper and the type to this press, and yet its identity has never 
yet been disclosed. The Catholics of course retaliated in kind, though 
by no means in equal volume. 



A brief glance at the content of this pamphleteering is revealing 
alike for the methods and the selection of themes for popular dis- 
semination. All the external abuses of the Roman Church were easy 
to lampoon. The familiar theme of the contrast between Christ and 
the pope was exploited. Christ in a skit is made to say, "I have not 
where to lay my head." The pope comments, "Sicily is mine. Corsica 
is mine. Assisi is mine. Perugia is mine." Christ: "He who believes 
and is baptized will be saved." Pope: "He who contributes and re- 
ceives indulgences will be absolved." Christ: "Feed my sheep." 
Pope: "I shear mine." Christ: "Put up your sword." Pope: "Pope 
Julius killed sixteen hundred in one day." In a cartoon the pope 
in armor on a war horse accompanied by a devil drops his lance on 
seeing Christ on a donkey carrying a large cross. 

Monasticism, images, and magic received many gibes. "Three 
finches in a birdhouse praise God more joyfully than one hundred 
monks in a cloister." A pamphleteer describes an image of the Virgin 
with the head hollowed out and needle holes in the eyes, through 
which water could be squirted to make her weep. A Catholic mother 
in Swabia had sent to her son studying at Wittenberg a little wax 
lamb marked Agnus Dei to protect him against mishap. His reply 
to her was printed in 1523. 






Liebe Mutter: 

You should not be upset over Dr. Martin Luther's teaching, nor worried 
about me. It is safer here than in Swabia. I am grateful to you for sending 
me the little wax Agnus Dei, to protect me against being shot, cut, and 


from falling, but honestly it won't do me any good* I cannot set my 
faith on it because God's Word teaches me to trust only in Jesus Christ. 
I am sending it back. We'll try it out on this letter and see whether it is 
protected from tampering. I don't thank you one bit less, but I pray 
God you won't believe any more in sacred salt and holy water and all this 
devil's tomfoolery. I hope you won't give the wax lamb to my brother. 
And dearest mother, I hope father will let me stay longer in Wittenberg. 
Read Dr. Martin Luther's New Testament. It is on sale at Leipzig. I am 



going to buy a brown hat at Wittenberg. Love to my dear father and 
brother and sisters. 

The tracts did not forget to extol Luther. In one of the pamphlets 
a peasant, meeting a resplendent figure, inquires whether he is God. 
"No," comes the answer, "I am a fisher of men, Peter by name, and 
I have just come from Wittenberg, where in God's good pleasure my 
fellow apostle Martin Luther has arisen to tell the people the truth 
that I never was the bishop of Rome, nor was I ever a bloodsucker 
of the poor, for I had neither silver nor gold." 

The Devil was called in to assist both sides. A Catholic cartoon 
shows him whispering into the ear of his confidant, Martin Luther. 
On the other hand a Reformation cut depicts Luther at his desk when 
the Devil breaks in with a letter which reads: 

We Lucifer, lord of eternal darkness and ruler of all the kingdoms of 
the world, declare to you, Martin Luther, our wrath and displeasure. We 
have learned from our legates, Cardinals Campeggio and Lang, the dam- 
age you have done in that you have revived the Bible which at our 
behest has been little used for the last four hundred years. You have per- 
suaded monks and nuns to leave the cloisters in which formerly they 
served us well, and you are yourself an apostate from our service. There- 
fore we will persecute you with burning, drowning, and beheading* 
This is a formal declaration of war, and you will receive no other notice. 
Sealed with our hellish seal in the City of Damnation on the last day of 
September, 1524. 

The drama reinforced the tract. A play disclosed a conspiracy to 
overthrow the kingdom of Christ through the erection of the papacy 
with such success that Satan invited the pope and his satellites to a 
banquet. When they were sated with roast princes and sausages made 
from the blood of the poor, a messenger broke in with the news that 
justification by faith was being preached at Wittenberg* Hell was 
thrown into confusion, and Christ took over. 

These examples illustrate the attack on Romish abuses. Luther's 
positive teaching was less graphic and more difficult to popularize^ 



but Hans Sachs, the shoemaker poet of Niirnberg, succeeded not 
badly in rhyming couplets on Luther as "The Wittenberg Nightin- 

Luther teaches that we all 
Are involved in Adam's fall. 
If man beholds himself "within, 
He feels the bite and curse of sin. 
When dread, despair, and terror seize, 
Contrite he falls upon his knees. 
Then breaks for him the light of day. 
Then the gospel may have sway. 
Then sees he Christ of God the Son, 
Who for us all things has done. 
The law fulfilled, the debt is paid, 
Death overcome, the curse allayed, 
Hell destroyed, the devil bound, 
Grace for us with God has found. 
Christ, the Lamb, removes all sin. 
By faith alone in Christ we win* 

By such simple summaries Luther's teaching was taken to the 
common man in every walk of life. When Luther was reproached for 
making his appeal to the laity, one of the pamphleteers replied: 

You subtle fools, I tell you there are now at Niirnberg, Augsburg, Ulm, 
in Switzerland, and in Saxony wives, maidens, and maids, students, hand- 
workers, tailors, shoemakers, bakers, knights, nobles, and princes such as 
the Elector of Saxony, who know more about the Bible than aU the 
schools of Paris and Cologne and all the papists in the world* 


But this very dissemination of the gospel raised many practical 
problems as to the organization of the Church. Luther's views on 
that subject had never been clarified. The true Church for him was 
always the Church of the redeemed, known only to God, manifest 
here and there on earth, small, persecuted and often hidden, at any 
rate scattered and united only in the bond of the spirit. Such a view 



could scarcely issue in anything other than a mystical fellowship 
devoid of any concrete form. This was what Luther meant by the 
kingdom of Christ. He did not pretend that it could be actualized, 
but he was not prepared to leave the Church disembodied. The next 
possibility was to gather together such ardent souls as could be 
assembled in a particular locality, and Luther came close to forming 
such an association in 1522 when he instructed those who desired 
communion in both kinds to receive it apart from the rest. After 
such communion became the common practice, he still desired to 
gather true believers into an inner fellowship, but not at the price 
of abandoning the church comprising the community. He would 
rather form a cell within the structure of the comprehensive body. 
The practical difficulties, however, in his judgment were insuperable, 
and by 1526 he declared his dream to be impossible. On that score 
he was mistaken, because the Anabaptists succeeded, but they did so 
by making a clean break with the church territorial. Luther's dilemma 
was that he wanted both a confessional church based on personal 
faith and experience, and a territorial church including all in a given 
locality. If he were forced to choose, he would take his stand with 
the masses, and this was the direction in which he moved. 

To do so required some efforts in the direction of organization. 
By 1527 the whole of electoral Saxony could be regarded as evan- 
gelical. At many points the abandonment of the old ways had 
produced confusion. Notably was this the case at the point of 
ecclesiastical properties and finances. Cloisters had been abandoned. 
What then should become of their endowments and revenues? The 
donors in some instances had been dead for centuries, and the heirs 
were beyond identification. The lands were in danger of expropria- 
tion by powerful neighbors, and revenues in any case declined 
because the peasants were indisposed to surrender the produce after 
the object had been altered. Secondly, the liturgical reforms had 
engendered chaos, because Luther was so averse to uniformity. Each 
village and even each church had its own variety. Soon within the 
very same city the several churches exhibited diversity, and even a 


single church might vary in its practice* To those whose sense of 
religious security depended upon hallowed usage, such variety and 
unpredictability were genuinely disturbing. Luther began to feel 
that uniformity would have to be established, at least within the limits 
of each town. 

Worst of all, differences in doctrine imperiled the public peace. 
Remnants of Catholicism survived, and Zwinglianism and Anabap- 
tism were infiltrating. Such was the public temper that positive 
strife ensued. For this Luther saw no solution other than that one 
religion only should be publicly celebrated in a given locality. How 
to bring this to pass was by no means clear in his mind, because 
he was impelled by conflicting principles. He regarded the mass as 
idolatry and blasphemy, but he would compel no one to the faith. 
He was driven to the recognition of the rights of rival confessions. 
The outcome was the territorial church, in which the confession was 
that of the majority in a given locality, and the minority were free 
to migrate to favorable terrain. Whether this principle should apply 
only to the Catholics or also to the sectaries was another question. 

But who should take the initiative in terminating the confusion? 
Hitherto Luther had been inclined to Congregationalism and had 
stoutly objected to the dismissal of Zwilling from Zwickau by a 
patron against the wishes of the people. But independent local con- 
gregations were not in a position to cope with problems affecting 
several areas. These would have been handled by the bishops, but 
the bishops had not embraced the reform; and even if they had, 
Luther would not have accorded to them their ancient functions 
because he had come to be persuaded that in the New Testament 
every pastor was a bishop. Hence in more than jest he referred to 
his colleagues as "the bishop of Lochau or the bishop of Torgau," 
Some substitute, then, would have to be devised for the bishop. 
The answer was to create the office of superintendent, but how and 
by whom should he be chosen? If by the churches, who could call 
them together? 



To all these questions Luther saw no answer other than for 
the time being to call upon the prince. He should act not as a 
magistrate, but as a Christian brother advantageously situated to 
serve as an emergency bishop. All the church property should 
temporarily at least be vested in him that he might redirect the 
revenues for the support of ministers, teachers, and the poor. As 
to uniformity in liturgy and faith, if the will of the majority was to 
be determinative the situation called for a survey. Let Saxony be 
investigated. Visitations in the old days had been conducted by the 
bishops. Now let the elector appoint a commission for the purpose. 
This was done; and Visitors, including theologians with Luther at 
the head, and jurists to handle financial matters were appointed. 
Melanchthon composed the visitation articles to be presented in 
print to each of the clergy. Luther's preface stressed the provisional 
nature of the whole plan, but the elector referred to the commissioners 
as "'My Visitors," and Melanchthon's instructions were less a ques- 
tionnaire than a program to be instituted, Luther had unwittingly 
started down the road which was to lead to the territorial church 
under the authority of the prince. 

The Visitors in two months investigated thirty-eight parishes 
inquiring into finances, behavior, forms of worship, and the faith. 
In the matter of finances they discovered great confusion and neglect, 
Parsonages were in a deplorable condition. One minister complained 
that four gulden worth of books had been ruined through a leaky 
roof. The Visitors decided to hold the parishioners responsible for 
repairs. Morals were not too shocking. The liturgy required standard- 
ization within limits. With regard to the faith, the determinative 
point was the evangelical complexion of all Saxony. The implementa- 
tion of the reform therefore could not be regarded as an imposition 
of faith on a majority of the citizens. But there were dissenters, and 
in the interests of the public peace two religions could not be per- 
mitted to exist side by side. For that reason remnants of Catholicism 
must disappear. Priests who declined to accept the reform were dis- 



missed. If young, they were left to fend for themselves. If old, they 
were pensioned. One minister on the arrival of the Visitors married 
his cook. He was asked why he had not done so earlier, and he replied 
that he expected her to die soon and he could then marry someone 
younger. He was adjudged to be popish and was deposed. A case 
was discovered in which a minister served two parishes, one in 
Catholic and one in evangelical territory, and ministered to each 
according to its respective rites. This arrangement was deemed un- 

A sharp eye was kept on the sectaries, whether Zwinglian or 
Anabaptist. But Luther was not yet willing to treat the Anabaptists 
as the Zwinglians had already done in subjecting them to the death 
penalty. As late as June, 1528, Luther replied to an inquiry as follows: 

You ask whether the magistrate may kill false prophets. I am slow in a 
judgment of blood even when it is deserved. In this matter I am terrified 
by the example of the papists and the Jews before Christ, for when there 
was a statute for the killing of false prophets and heretics, in time it 
came about that only the most saintly and innocent were killed. ... I 
cannot admit that false teachers are to be put to death. It is enough to 

But even banishment required some adjustment of theory. Luther 
still held stoutly to his objection to any compulsion to faith. But this 
did not preclude restriction of the public profession of faith. The 
outward manifestations of religion, he held, may be subjected to 
regulation in the interests of orderliness and tranquillity. In all 
this Luther never dreamed that he was subordinating the Church to 
the state. The system later introduced in England which made the 
king the head of the Church was hardly to his taste. But Christian 
princes in his view were certainly responsible for fostering the 
true religion. Luther's concern was always that the faith be un- 
impeded. Anyone might help; no one might hinder. If the prince 
would render assistance, let it be accepted. If he interfered, then let 
him be disobeyed. This remained Luther's principle to the end of 
his life. Nevertheless the sharp line of demarcation which he had 



delineated between the spheres of the Church and the state in his 
tract On Civil Government in 1523 was already in process of being 


This was all the more the case because the evangelical cause was 
menaced in the political terrain, and inevitably the defense fell to the 
lay leaders. From now on the electors, princes, and delegates of the 
free cities rather than the theologians were called upon to say, "Here 
I stand." Luther himself was not so much the confessor as the mentor 
of confessors. It was his to encourage, chide, guide, counsel, and 
warn against undue concessions or unworthy means. 

The fortunes of Lutheranism depended upon the decisions of the 
German diets in conjunction with the emperor or his deputy 
Ferdinand. A brief review is in order of the struggle of Lutheranism 
for recognition and of the part played by Luther in the events from 
the Diet of Worms through the Diet of Augsburg. 

After the Diet of Worms each succeeding gathering of the German 
estates had been forced to occupy itself with the Lutheran question. 
First came the Diet of Niirnberg in 1522. It differed from the Diet 
of Worms in that the middle party was gone and the implacables 
confronted the intransigents. A Catholic group began to form in 
terms even of political alignment. Duke George of Saxony was the 
most militant and to inflame his colleagues took it upon himself to 
copy with his own hand the most offensive passages from Luther's 
successive works. Joachim of Brandenburg, the Hapsburgs, and the 
Bavarians constituted the core. 

On the other side the free imperial cities were strong for the re- 
form. Augsburg and Strassburg, despite their bishops, were infected 
with heresy. Niirnberg, where the diet was in session, declared that 
though the pope had three more layers on his tiara he could not 
induce them to abandon the Word. Frederick the Wise pursued his 
usual discreet course, refrained from suppressing the mass in the 
Castle Church at Wittenberg until the diet was over, but declined 
equally to banish Luther. 



Each side overestimated the other. Ferdinand reported to the em- 
peror that in Germany not one in a thousand was untainted by 
Lutheranism. But Frederick's delegate reported that he was in danger 
of being subjected to economic sanctions. With the forces so evenly 
matched, even though there was no middle party, compromise was 
the only possible solution. And the Catholics were the readier to 
concede it because they could not gainsay the word of Frederick's 
delegate that Luther had actually become a bulwark against disorder, 
that without him his followers were quite unmanageable, and that his 
return to Wittenberg against the wishes of his prince had been quite 
imperative to allay chaos. 

The diet at its session of March 6, 1523, contented itself with the 
ambiguous formula that until the meeting of a general council Luther 
and his followers should refrain from publishing and that nothing 
should be preached other than the holy gospel in accord with the 
interpretation of the writings approved by the Christian Church. 
When the assembly reconvened the following year, again at Niirn- 
berg, the accession of a new pope, Clement VII, a Medici quite as 
secular as Leo X, made under the circumstances no difference. The 
formula adopted on April 18, 1524, was: "The gospel should be 
preached in accord with the interpretation of the universal Church. 
Each prince in his own territory should enforce the Edict of Worms 
in so far as he might be able." Here in germ was the principle of 
aums regio eius religio, that each region should have its own religion. 

Everyone knew that this was only a respite, and the Peasants' War 
of 1525 intensified the conflict because the Catholic princes hanged 
Lutheran ministers in batches. In consequence a new brand of 
Lutheranism began to emerge, political in complexion. The genius 
of the movement was a recent convert, Philip of Hesse. He was 
young, impetuous, and always active. He it was who had been on his 
toes in the Peasants' War when the Saxon princes were for leaving 
the outcome to God. Philip was guided by three principles: he would 
compel none to the faith; he would fight rather than suffer com- 
pulsion for himself; and he would make an alliance with those of 
another faith. He was now eager to demonstrate his attachment to the 



gospel. When the diet of the empire reassembled at Speyer in 1526, 
Philip marched in with two hundred horsemen and Lutheran preach- 
ers, who, being denied the pulpits, stood upon balconies of the inns 
and addressed throngs of four thousand. Philip made evident his faith 
by serving an ox on Friday. A representative from Strassburg wished 
that he had chosen a more significant testimony than staging a 
barbecue on a fast day. Such flagrant flaunting of ancient usage would 
never have been tolerated by the emperor had he been free. But 
having defeated France in 1525, he was subsequently embroiled with 
the pope and unable to attend the diet. The outcome was another tem- 
porizing measure. Each member was left on the religious question 
to act "as he would have to answer to God and the emperor," This 
was practically a recognition of the territorial principle. 

This respite lasted for three years, during which time most of 
northern Germany became Lutheran, and in the south the cities of 
Strassburg, Augsburg, Ulm, and Niirnberg. Constance embraced the 
reform, severed connections with the Hapsburgs, and joined the 
Swiss. Basel came over to the reform in 1529. 

This was the year of the Second Diet of Speyer. The significance 
of this gathering is that it solidified the confessions and divided Ger- 
many into two camps. On the eve of the diet such was by no means 
the case. The Evangelicals were divided alike on faith and tactics. 
Philip of Hesse, duped into believing that the Catholics meditated an 
attack, had negotiated with France and Bohemia, the traditional 
enemies of the House of Hapsburg, to the horror of the Saxon 
princes who had no mind to dismember the empire. The Catholics 
were divided on policy. The emperor was for the gloved hand, 
his brother Ferdinand for the mailed fist. The Diet of Speyer brought 
clarification, because Ferdinand chose to suppress the instructions of 
his brother Charles, who again was absent, and demanded the ex- 
tirpation of heresy. His attempt, even though but moderately suc- 
cessful, solidified the Evangelicals. The time appeared propitious for 
their suppression, because France, the pope, and the Turk were at the 
moment either in hand or less menacing. But the diet was not too 
amenable to Ferdinand's wishes, and the decree was far less severe 


than it might have been. The Edict of Worms was reaffirmed only 
for Catholic territories. Provisionally until the meeting of the general 
council Lutheranism was to be tolerated in those regions where it 
could not be suppressed without tumult. In Lutheran lands the prin- 
ciple of religious liberty for Catholics must be observed, whereas 
in Catholic lands the same liberty would not be extended to the 
Lutherans. Against this invidious arrangement the Evangelicals pro- 
tested, whence the origin of the name Protestant, They contended 
that the majority of one diet could not rescind the unanimous action 
of the previous assembly. They questioned whether this was the 
intent of the emperor, and on that score they were correct. They 
affirmed that they could not have two religions side by side in their 
territories without menace to the public peace, and if their plea was 
not heard, then "they must protest and testify publicly before God 
that they could consent to nothing contrary to his Word." 

Their stand has been variously misrepresented. In the Protestant 
camp the emphasis has been all too much on the first word, "protest/* 
rather than on the second, "testify." Above all else they were confess- 
ing their faith. On the Catholic side the misrepresentation has been 
flagrant. The historian Janssen said that they were protesting against 
religious liberty. In a sense of course they were. Neither side was 
tolerant, but the objection was to the inequality of the arrangement 
which demanded liberty for Catholics and denied it to Protestants. 
In this protest the Zwinglians and Lutherans were joined. 


Philip of Hesse believed that the time had come to go further. 
The rescript of this diet also was only provisional The Protestants 
then should protect themselves by a common confession and a 
common confederation. His hope was to unite the Lutherans, the 
Swiss, and the Strassburgers, who took an intermediate position on 
the Lord's Supper. But Luther was of no mind for a political con- 
federation. "We cannot in conscience," said he, "approve such a 
league inasmuch as bloodshed or other disaster may be the outcome, 
and we may find ourselves so involved that we cannot withdraw 



even though we would. Better be ten times dead than that our con- 
sciences should be burdened with the insufferable weight of such 
disaster and that our gospel should be the cause of bloodshed, when 
we ought rather to be as sheep for the slaughter and not avenge or 
defend ourselves." 

The common confession was another matter, and Luther with 
some misgivings accepted an invitation to assemble with a group 
of German and Swiss theologians in Philip's picturesque castle on a 
hillock overlooking the slender Lahn and the towers of Marburg. 
A notable company assembled. Luther and Melanchthon represented 
Saxony, Zwingli came from Zurich, Oekolampadius from Basel, Bucer 
from Strassburg, to name only the more outstanding. All earnestly 
desired a union. Zwingli rejoiced to look upon the faces of Luther 
and Melanchthon, and declared with tears in his eyes that there were 
none with whom he would be more happy to be in accord. Luther 
likewise exhorted to unity. The discussion commenced inauspicious- 
ly, however, when Luther drew a circle with chalk upon the table 
and wrote within it the words, "This is my body." Oekolampadius 
insisted that these words must be taken metaphorically, because the 
flesh profits nothing and the body of Christ has ascended into heaven. 
Luther inquired why the ascent should not also be metaphorical 
Zwingli went to the heart of the matter when he affirmed that flesh 
and spirit are incompatible. Therefore the presence of Christ can 
only be spiritual. Luther replied that flesh and spirit can be conjoined, 
and the spiritual, which no one denied, does not exclude the physical. 
They appeared to have arrived at a deadlock, but actually they had 
made substantial gains, because Zwingli advanced from his view that 
the Lord's Supper is only a memorial to the position that Christ is 
spiritually present. And Luther conceded that whatever the nature of 
the physical presence, it is of no benefit without faith. Hence any 
magical view is excluded. 

This approximation of the two positions offered hope for agree- 
ment, and the Lutherans took the initiative in proposing a formula of 
concord. They confessed that hitherto they had misunderstood the 
Swiss. For themselves they declared "that Christ is truly present, 



that is, substantively, essentially, though not quantitatively, qualita- 
tively, or locally." The Swiss rejected this statement as not clearly 
safeguarding the spiritual character of the Lord's Supper, because 
they could not understand how something could be present but not 
locally present. Luther told them that geometrical conceptions can- 
not be used to describe the presence of God. 

The common confession had failed. But then the Swiss proposed 
that despite the disagreement intercommunion be practiced, and to 
this "Luther momentarily agreed." This we know on the testimony 
of Bucer, "until Melanchthon interposed out of regard for Ferdinand 
and the emperor." This statement is extremely significant. It means 
that Luther did not play the role of utter implacability commonly 
ascribed to him, and was disposed to join with the Swiss until Melanch- 
thon made him aware that to coalesce with the left would estrange the 
right. Melanchthon still entertained a hope for the reform of all 
Christendom and the preservation of the larger medieval unities 
through a reconciliation of the Lutherans and the Catholics. The 
alignment of Speyer did not seem to him definitive, but he sensed 
that the price would be the repudiation of the sectaries. Luther was 
far less sanguine as to the Catholics and preferred a consolidated Prot- 
estantism, but he yielded to Melanchthon, the one friend who was 
ever able to deflect him from an intransigent course. Luther's judg- 
ment was ultimately to be confirmed; and when Melanchthon had ex- 
hausted his efforts at conciliation with the Catholics, the line dropped 
at Marburg was resumed and issued ia the Wittenberg Concord. 

A united confession had failed. Intercommunion had failed. But 
the confederation ought nevertheless to be possible, argued Philip 
of Hesse. People can unite to defend the right of each to believe what 
he will even though they are not altogether of the same persuasion. 
His pleas were very plausible. They were referred for consideration 
not only to the theologians but also to the lay leaders of Saxony. If 
Luther is reproached for his willingness to accept so much help from 
the state, we must recall that the statesmen of that day were Chris- 
tian believers who were ready to stake everything upon their convic- 
tions, and with much more to lose than Luther himself. It was the 


, -- U 


THK SitJNMiurs AT nu: MAHurtu; 

Joannes Ot'*v;/j////ut////.v, 
Caspar Ih'Mv, *l/iir/////w l.ntlw 
Andreas Oawndcr, Stcf>!,\wtts / 


chancellor of Saxony who composed the answer to Philip of Hesse. 
The chancellor was not like Luther averse to any political alliance, 
nor like Philip indifferent to a confessional basis. The arguments on 
both sides were reviewed. In favor of the confederation it might be 
said that among the Zwinglians were doubtless many good Christians 
who did not agree with Zwingli, and in any case a political alliance 
could be made even with the heathen. To this the reply was that an 
alliance with the heathen would be more defensible than an alliance 
with apostates. The faith is supreme. Therefore the considerable as- 
sistance which might be rendered by the Swiss must be renounced 
and the outcome left entirely in the hands of God. 

This left the Swiss to take care of themselves. In the second Kappel 
War in 1531 Zwingli fell sword in hand on the field of battle. Luther 
considered his death a judgment upon him because as a minister he 
wielded the sword. 


The Lutherans were left also to take care of themselves. In 1530 
Emperor Charles was at last free to come to Germany. Having hum- 
bled France and the pope, he approached Germany with a gracious 
invitation that each should declare himself on the score of religion, 
but with the intent not to spare severe measures should the milder fail. 
Luther was not permitted to attend the diet. For six months he was 
again "in the wilderness" as he had been at the Wartburg, this time 
in another castle called the Feste Coburg. He was not quite so lonely 
because he was attended by his secretary, from whose pen we have 
a little glimpse of the doctor in a report sent to his wife. 

Dear and gracious Mrs. Luther: 

Rest assured that your lord and we are hale and hearty by God's 
grace. You did well to send the doctor the portrait [of his daughter 
Magdalena], for it diverts him from his worries. He has nailed it on the 
wall opposite the table where we eat in the elector's apartment. At first 
he could not quite recognize her. "Dear me," said he, u Lenchen is too 
dark*" But he likes the picture now, and more and more comes to see 
that it is Lenchen. She is strikingly like Hans in the mouth, eyes, and 



nose, and in fact in the whole face, and will come to look even more like 
him. I just had to write you this. 

Do not be concerned about the doctor. He is in good trim, praise God. 
The news of his father's death shook him at first, but he was himself 
again after two days. When the letter came, he said, "My father is dead." 
He took his psalter, went to his room, and wept so that he was in- 
capacitated for two days, but he has been all right since. May God be 
with Hans and Lenchen and the whole household. 

As at the Wartburg, Luther devoted himself to biblical studies and 
likewise to admonitions and advice to those who were conducting the 
defense of the evangelical cause at Augsburg. His absence and their 
success were the manifest proof that the movement could survive 
without him. The great witness was borne this time not by the monk 
of Wittenberg or even by the ministers and theologians, but by the 
lay princes who stood to lose their dignities and their lives. When 
the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Fifth, approached the city of 
Augsburg, the dignitaries went out to receive him. As the notables 
knelt, barehea4ed, for the benediction of Cardinal Campeggio, the 
Elector of Saxony stood bolt upright. On the following day came 
one of the most colorful processions in the history of medieval pagean- 
try. In silk and damask, with gold brocade, in robes of crimson and 
the colors appropriate to each house, came the electors of the empire 
followed by the most exalted of their number, John of Saxony, carry- 
ing in accord with ancient usage the glittering naked sword of the 
emperor. Behind him marched Albert, the Archbishop of Mainz, 
the Bishop of Cologne, King Ferdinand of Austria, and his brother 
the emperor. They marched to the cathedral, where the emperor and 
all the throng knelt before the high altar. But Elector John of Saxony 
and the landgrave, Philip of Hesse, remained standing. On the mor- 
row the emperor took the Lutheran princes aside. John and Philip 
were of course among them, and also the aged George, the margrave 
of Brandenburg. The emperor told them that their ministers must 
not preach in Augsburg. The princes refused. The emperor insisted 
that at any rate the ministers must not preach polemical sermons. The 
princes again refused. The emperor informed them that the following 



day would see the Corpus Christi procession, in which they would 
be expected to march. The princes once more refused. The emperor 
continued to insist, when the margrave stepped forward and said, 
"Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God and ask me to 
deny my God, I will kneel and let him strike off my head." 

The emperor, despite all these rebuffs, was willing to let the Prot- 
estants state their case. The commission fell to Melanchthon. He was 
still hopeful for the emperor and for the moderates in the Catholic 
camp, led now by Albert, the Archbishop of Mainz, who had once 
sent Luther a wedding present. To be sure Eck and Campeggio were 
raving and disseminating lies and all manner of misrepresentation, but 
after all they were not the whole Catholic Church. 

Melanchthon himself had a deep streak of the Erasmian. He wished 
neither to deny the faith of Martin Luther nor to be the man to re- 
move the keystone and let fall the arch of Christendom. He sat in 
his room and wept. At the same time he explored every avenue of 
conciliation and even went so far as to say that the differences be- 
tween the Lutherans and the Catholics were no more serious than 
the use of German in the mass. 

Luther was exceedingly concerned and wrote to him that the 
difference between them was that Melanchthon was stout and Luther 
yielding in personal disputes, but the reverse was true on public con- 
troversies. Luther was thinking of the discussion at Marburg when he 
had been concessive, Melanchthon obdurate. Now Melanchthon was 
for recognizing even the pope, whereas Luther felt that there could 
be no peace with the pope unless he abolished the papacy. The real 
point was not between personal and public controversies, but in their 
respective judgments of the left and of the right, Melanchthon in his 
efforts to conciliate the Catholics was in danger of emasculating the 

But he did not. The Augsburg Confession was his work, and in 
the end it was as stalwart a confession as any made by the princes, 
Luther was immensely pleased with it and thought its moderate tone 
better than anything he could have achieved. In the first draft the 
Augsburg Confession spoke only in the name of electoral Saxony, 



but in the final draft it confessed the faith of a united Lutheranism. 
Even Philip of Hesse signed, despite his leanings to the Swiss. But 
the statement on the Lord's Supper was such that the Swiss declined 
and submitted a statement of their own. The Strassburgers also re- 
fused to sign, and they too brought in another confession. In all there 
were three Protestant statements of faith submitted at Augsburg. 
The Anabaptists of course received no hearing at all. Yet despite 
these divergences in the Evangelical ranks, the Augsburg Confes- 
sion did much to consolidate Protestantism and to set it over against 
Catholicism. One might take the date June 25, 1530, the day when 
the Augsburg Confession was publicly read, as the death day of 
the Holy Roman Empire. From this day forward the two confes- 
sions stood over against each other, poised for conflict. Charles V 
allowed the Evangelicals until April, 1531, to make their submission. 
If at that time they declined, they would then feel the edge of the 

Against this threat Luther addressed an appeal for moderation to 
the leader of the conciliatory party in the Roman camp, his old op- 
ponent and friend, Albert the Archbishop of Mainz, in the following 

Inasmuch as there is now no hope of unanimity in the faith, I humbly be- 
seech your Grace that you will endeavor to have the other side keep the 
peace, believing as they will and permitting us to believe this truth which 
has been confessed and found blameless. It is well known that no one, be 
he pope or emperor, should or can force others to believe, for God himself 
has never yet seen fit to drive anyone by force to believe. How then 
shall his miserable creatures presume to coerce men not only to faith 
but to that which they themselves must regard as lies? Would to God 
that your Grace or anyone else would be a new Gamaliel to commend 
this counsel of peace. 

Luther's counsel was taken not on principle but by reason of ne- 
cessity, for the emperor was not to find himself again in a position to 
intervene for another fifteen years. 




ISITATION had established the outward form 
of the Church, but Luther well knew that the 
Church of the spirit cannot be engendered by 
the arm of the magistrate. The true Christian 
Church is the work of the Word communi- 
cated by every available means. Early Lu- 
ther sensed the need for a new translation of 
the Scriptures from the original tongues into 
idiomatic German. There must be likewise a body of instructional 
material for the young. The liturgy would have to be revised to elimi- 
nate popish abuses and to enlighten the people. Congregational singing 
should be cultivated alike to inspire and instruct. The Bible, the cate- 
chism, the liturgy, and the hymnbook thus constituted the needs, and 
all four were to be met by Luther himself. 


For the translation of the Bible, Luther availed himself of the en- 
forced leisure at the Wartburg to produce in three months a rendering 
of the complete New Testament. The Old Testament came later. The 
German Bible is Luther's noblest achievement, unfortunately untrans- 
latable because every nation has its own direct version. For the Ger- 
mans, Luther's rendering was incomparable. He leaped beyond the 
tradition of a thousand years. There had been translations before him 
of the Scripture into German, reaching back to the earliest transcrip- 
tion of the Gothic tongue by Ulfilas. There were even portions of the 
Bible translated not from the Latin Vulgate, but from the Hebrew 



and the Greek. But none had the majesty of diction, the sweep of 
vocabulary, the native earthiness, and the religious profundity of Lu- 
ther. "I endeavored," said he, "to make Moses so German that no one 
would suspect he was a Jew." 

The variety of German chosen as a basis was the court tongue of 
electoral Saxony, enriched from a number of dialects with which 
Luther had gained some familiarity in his travels. He went to incredible 
pains to find words. The initial translation did not satisfy him. His 
New Testament was first published in September, 1522, but he was 
revising it to the day of his death in 1546. The last printed page on 
which he ever looked was the proof of the latest revision. The Old 
Testament was commenced after his return from the Wartburg. The 
complete translation of the entire Bible did not appear until 1534. 
This, again, was subject to constant reworking in collaboration with 
a committee of colleagues. 

Luther on occasion achieved the most felicitous rendering at the 
first throw. At other times he had to labor. In that case he would first 
make a literal translation in the word order of the original. Then he 
would take each word separately and gush forth a freshet of synonyms. 
From these he would select those which not only best suited the 
sense but also contributed to balance and rhythm. All of this would 
then be set aside in favor of a free rendering to catch the spirit. Finally 
the meticulous and the free would be brought together. Sometimes he 
was at a loss for terms and would set out in quest of words. In order 
to name the precious stones in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation 
he examined the court jewels of the elector of Saxony. For the coins 
of the Bible he consulted the numismatic collections in Wittenberg. 
When he came to describe the sacrifices of Leviticus and needed terms 
for the inward parts of goats and bullocks, he made repeated trips to 
the slaughterhouse and inquired of the butcher. The birds and beasts 
of the Old Testament proved a hard knot. To Spalatin he wrote: 

I am all right on the birds of the night owl, raven, horned owl, tawny 
owl, screech owl and on the birds of prey vulture, kite, hawk, and 
sparrow hawk. I can handle the stag, roebuck, and chamois, but what in 



the Devil am I to do with the taragelaphus, pygargus, oryx, and 
camelopard [names for animals in the Vulgate]? 

Another problem was the translation of idioms. Here Luther in- 
sisted that the idiom of one language must be translated into the equiva- 
lent idiom of the other. He was scornful of the Vulgate translation, 
"Hail, Mary, full of grace." "What German would understand that if 
translated literally? He knows the meaning of a purse full of gold or 
a keg full of beer, but what is he to make of a girl full of grace? I 
would prefer to say simply, 'Liebe Maria? What word is more rich 
than that word, 'liebe*?" 

There is no doubt that it is a rich word, but its connotations are not 
precisely the same as "endowed with grace," and Luther did not use 
the word in his official version. Here is the problem of the translator. 
Should he use always an indigenous word which may have a particular 
local connotation? If the French call a centurion a gendarme, and the 
Germans make a procurator into a burgomaster, Palestine has moved 



west. And this is what did happen to a degree in Luther's rendering. 
Judea was transplanted to Saxony, and the road from Jericho to Je- 
rusalem ran through the Thuringian forest. By nuances and turns of 
expression Luther enhanced the graphic in terms of the local. When he 
read, "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city 
of God," he envisaged a medieval town begirt with walls and towers, 
surrounded by a moat through which coursed a living stream laving 
with laughter the massive piers. 

What the word could not do at this point, the pictures supplied. The 
Luther Bibles were copiously illustrated, particularly for the earlier 
portion of the Old Testament and for the book of Revelation in the 
New Testament. The restriction of illustrations to these portions of 
the Bible had become a convention in Germany. The Gospels and the 
epistles were adorned only with initial letters. Why this should have 



been the case is difficult to see. Certainly there was no objection to 
illustrating the Gospels; witness Diirer's "Life of Mary," or the wood- 
cuts of the Passion, or Schongauer's nativities. Within the conven- 
tional limits Luther's Bible was richly illustrated. In the various 
editions to appear during his lifetime there were some five hundred 
woodcuts. They were not the choicest expressions of the art, but they 
did Germanize the Bible, Moses and David might almost be mistaken 
for Frederick the Wise and John Frederick. 

An interesting development is to be observed in the illustrations from 
one artist to another in the successive editions of the Luther Bible, 
notably from Cranach to Lemberger. One senses something of the 
transition from the Renaissance to baroque. Compare their renderings 
of the wrestling of Jacob with the angel. Cranach has a balance of 
spaces, with decorative background. Lemberger displays strains in ten- 
sion, with even the trees participating in the struggle. 

Unfortunately the illustrations for the book of Revelation were 
made all too contemporary. The temptation was too strong to identify 
the pope with Antichrist. In the first edition of the New Testament in 
September, 1522, the scarlet woman sitting on the seven hills wears 
the papal tiara. So also does the great dragon. The beast out of the 
abyss has a monk's cowl. Fallen Babylon is plainly Rome. /There is no 
mistaking the Belvedere, the Pantheon, and the Castelo dc St. Angelo. 
Duke George was so enraged by these pictures that he sent a warm 
protest to Frederick the Wise. In consequence, in the issue of Decem- 
ber, 1522, the tiaras in the woodcuts were chiseled down to innocuous 
crowns of a single layer, but other details were left unchanged and 
attracted so little notice that Eniscr, Luther's Catholic opponent, ac- 
tually borrowed the blocks from Cranach to illustrate his own Bible. 
In the New Testament of 1530 Luther introduced an annotation ex- 
plaining that the frogs issuing from the mouth of the dragon were his 
opponents, Faber, Eck, and Emser, In the completed edition of the 
whole Bible in 1534, after Frederick the Wise was dead, the wood- 
cuts were done over and the papal tiaras restored. 


The most difficult task in translating consisted not in making vivid 
the scenes but in capturing the moods and ideas. "Translating is not 
an art that everyone can practice. It requires a right pious, faithful, 
diligent, God-fearing, experienced, practical heart." Luther did not 
think to add that it requires an instructed head, but he had his ideas 
about the Bible which in some measure affected alike what he did 
and what he left undone. He did not attempt any minor harmoniza- 
tion of discrepancies, because trivial errors gave him no concern. If on 
occasion he could speak of every iota of Holy Writ as sacred, at other 
times he displayed blithe indifference to minor blemishes, such as an 
error in quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament. 
The Bible for him was not strictly identical with the Word of God. 
God's Word is the work of redemption in Christ which became con- 
crete in Scripture as God in Christ became incarnate in the flesh; and 
as Christ by the incarnation was not denuded of human characteristics, 
so the Scripture as the medium of the Word was not divested of hu- 
man limitations. Hence Luther was not subject to the slightest temp- 
tation to accommodate a gospel citation from the prophets to the text 
of the Old Testament. No more was he concerned to harmonize the 
predictions of Peter's denial with the accounts of the denial itself. 

But when doctrinal matters were involved, the case was different. 
Luther read the New Testament in the light of the Pauline message 
that the just shall live by faith and not by works of the law. That this 
doctrine is not enunciated with equal emphasis throughout the New 
Testament and appears to be denied in the book of James did not es- 
cape Luther, and in his preface to the New Testament of 1522 James 
was stigmatized as "an epistle of straw." Once Luther remarked thai 
he would give his doctor's beret to anyone who could reconcile 
James and Paul. Yet he did not venture to reject James from the canor 
of Scripture, and on occasion earned his own beret by effecting t 
reconciliation. "Faith," he wrote, "is a living, restless thing. It cannoi 
be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works 
there must be something amiss with faith." This was simply to put i 


RIGHT: In the New 
Testament of September, 
1522, she is shown rear- 
ing the papal tiara. 

Pauline construction upon James. The conclusion was a hierarchy of 
values within the New Testament. First Luther would place the 
Gospel of John, then the Pauline epistles and First Peter, after them 
the three other Gospels, and in a subordinate place Hebrews, James, 
Jude, and Revelation. He mistrusted Revelation because of its ob- 
scurity. "A revelation/' said he, "should be revealing." 

These presuppositions affected the translation but slightly. Yet oc- 
casionally an overly Pauline turn is discernible. There is the famous 
example where Luther rendered "justification by faith" as "justification 
by faith alone." When taken to task for this liberty, he replied that 
he was not translating words but ideas, and that the extra word was 
necessary in German in order to bring out the force of the original. 

LEFT: The papal tiara 
elicited such a vigorous 
remonstrance from Duke 
George to Frederick the 
Wise that he interposed, 
and in the issue of De- 
cember, 1522, the tiara 
was reduced to an in- 
nocuous single layer. 

BELOW: In the Bible of 
1534 after Frederick's 
death the cut was done 
over and the tiara re~ 


Throughout all the revisions of his lifetime he would never relinquish 
that word "alone." In another instance he was more flexible. In 1522 
he had translated the Greek words meaning "by the works of the 
law" with German words meaning "by the merit of works." In 1527 
he substituted a literal rendering. That must have hurt. He was an 
honest workman, and successive revisions of the New Testament were 
marked by a closer approximation to the original. And yet there were 
places where Luther's peculiar views, without any inaccuracy, lent a 
nuance to the rendering. In the benediction, "The peace of God, 
which passeth all understanding," Luther translated, "The peace which 
transcends all reason." One cannot exactly quarrel with that. He might 
better have said, "which surpasses all comprehension," but he was so 
convinced of the inadequacy of human reason to scale the heavenly 
heights that he could not but see here a confirmation of his supreme 

If the New Testament was for Luther a Pauline book, the Old 
Testament was a Christian book. Only the ceremonial law of the 
Jews was abrogated. The moral law was still valid because it was in ac- 
cord with the law of nature. But more significant than the ethic was 
the theology. The Old Testament foreshadowed the drama of redemp- 
tion. Adam exemplified the depravity of man. Noah tasted the wrath 
of God, Abraham was saved by faith, and David exhibited contrition. 
The pre-existent Christ was working throughout the Old Testament, 
speaking through the mouths of the prophets and the psalmist. A strik- 
ing witness to the Christological interpretation of the Old Testament 
current in Luther's day is to be found in the illustrations of his Bible, 
Among the hundreds of woodcuts the only portrayal of the nativity 
of Jesus is located not in the Gospels, where one would expect to find 
it, but on the title page to Ezckiel Reading the Old Testament in this 
fashion Luther could not well escape Christianizing shades of meaning. 
The "lovingkindness of the Lord" became "grace"; the "Deliverer of 
Israel" became "the Saviour"; and "life" was rendered "eternal life." 
That was why Bach could treat the Sixteenth Psalm as an Easter hymn. 

Luther's liberties were greatest with the Psalms because here he was 



so completely at home. They were the record of the spiritual struggles 
through which he was constantly passing. The favorite words of his 
Anfechtungen could not be excluded. Where the English version of 
Ps. 90 speaks of "secret sins" Luther has "unrecognized sins." He was 
thinking of his fruitless efforts in the cloister to recall every wrong- 
doing, that it might be confessed and pardoned. Where the English 
translates, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our 
hearts unto wisdom," Luther is blunt: "Teach us so to reflect on death 
that we may be wise." 

Luther so lived his way into the Psalms that he improved them. In 
the original the transitions are sometimes abrupt and the meaning not 
always plain. Luther simplified and clarified. When he came to a pas- 
sage which voiced his wrestlings in the night watches, he was free 
to paraphrase. Take his conclusion to the Seventy-third Psalm. 

My heart is stricken and my bones fail, that I must be a fool and know 
nothing, that I must be as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I will ever 
cleave to thee. Thou holdest me by thy right hand and leadest me by thy 
counsel. Thou wilt crown me at last with honor. If only I have that, I 
will not ask for earth or heaven. When body and soul fail me, thou art 
ever God, my heart's comfort and my portion. 

The Bible, just as it stood in Luther's rendering, was a great educa- 
tional tool; but more was needed, obviously for children but also for 
adults, who were almost equally ignorant. The children should be 
taught at church, at school, and at home; and to that end pastors, 
teachers, and parents should receive prior training. Hence Luther's plea 
that Catholic schools be replaced by municipal schools with a system of 
compulsory education including religion. "The Scripture cannot be 
understood without the languages," argued Luther, "and the languages 
can be learned only in school. If parents cannot spare their children for 
a full day, let them send them for a part. I would wager that in half 
of Germany there are not over four thousand pupils in school, I would 
like to know where we are going to get pastors and teachers three years 
from now." 




The mere training of pastors, teachers, and parents would, however, 
not suffice. They must in turn be provided with a body of religious 
literature adapted to children. The Middle Ages supplied little by way 
of models because the catechisms had been for adults. The Humanists 
had made a beginning, as in the Colloquies of Eras?m$, and the Bo- 
hemian Brethren had a question book for children; but the material was 
so scant that one can without exaggeration ascribe to the Reformation 
the creation of the first body of religious literature for the young. Lu- 
ther was so exceedingly busy that he attempted to delegate this assign- 
ment to others, and they undertook it with zest. In the seven years 
between his return to Wittenberg and the appearance of his own 
catechisms his collaborators had produced materials comprising five 
goodly volumes in a modern reprint. 

For the most part they were crude and boiled down to about this: 
"You are a bad child. You deserve to be punished forever in hell; but 
since God has punished his Son Jesus Christ in your place, you can be 
forgiven if you will honor, love, and obey God." That if bothered 
Luther, because it restored the merit of man as in the penitential system. 
Even Melanchthon moralized too much, for his manual was a compila- 
tion of the ethical portions of the New Testament with the maxims of 
the pagan sages. Some catechisms pitted the inner against the outer 
word of Scripture, and some even spiritualized the sacraments. In other 
words the radicals were appropriating the catechetical method. High 
time that Luther undertook the task himself! 

He produced two catechisms in the year 1529: the Large Catechism 
for adults, with a long section on marriage, scarcely suitable for the 
young; and the Small Cathechism for children. Both were built about 
five points: the Ten Commandments as a mirror of sin, the Apostles' 
Creed as a proclamation of forgiveness, the Lord's Prayer as an accep- 
tance of mercy, and the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's 
Supper as channels of grace. 

In the Large Cathechism the exposition was comparatively full and 
the tone at times polemical The command to worship only the Lord 



gave an opportunity to upbraid the Catholic cult of the saints, whereas 
the sections on the sacraments called for a refutation of the radicals. 
The Small Catechism for children is devoid of all polemic, an inimitable 
affirmation of faith. The section on the death of Christ stresses not the 
substitution of penalty but the triumph over all the forces of darkness. 

I believe in Jesus Christ . . . , who when I was lost and damned saved 
me from all sin and death and the power of the Devil, not with gold and 
silver but with his own precious, holy blood and his sinless suffering and 
death, that I might belong to him and live in his kingdom and serve him 
forever in goodness, sinlessness, and happiness, just as he is risen from 
the dead and lives and reigns forever. That is really so. 

Luther said that he would be glad to have all his works perish except 
the reply to Erasmus and the catechism. 

Do not think the catechism is a little thing to be read hastily and cast 
aside. Although I am a doctor, I have to do just as a child and say word 
for word every morning and whenever I have time the Lord's Prayer 
and the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Psalms. I have to do it 
every day, and yet I cannot stand as I would. But these smart folk in one 
reading want to be doctors of doctors. Therefore I beg these wise saints 
to be persuaded that they are not such great doctors as they think. To 
be occupied with God's Word helps against the world, the flesh, and the 
Devil, and all bad thoughts. This is the true holy water with which to 
exorcise the Devil. 

Luther's intention was that the catechism should be used in church 
as a basis for sermons, but more particularly in the home. The father 
should check up on the children at least once a week and also on the 
servants. If the children would not learn, they should not eat; if the 
servants declined, they should be dismissed. 

The catechisms were enlivened with quaint woodcuts of episodes 
from the Bible suitable to each point. "I believe in God the Father 
Almighty" naturally called for a view of the creation. "Hallowed be 
thy name" was illustrated by a preaching scene. "Remember the Sab- 
bath day" showed a devout group inside a church while outside a man 







was gathering wood. Luther was, however, no rigid Sabbatarian, and 
incidentally he did not select these pictures. Excessively modest is the 
cut accompanying the sixth commandment, where David with his 
harp is seduced by the sight of Bathsheba having her feet washed. At 
the close of the catechetical hour Luther suggested the singing of a 
psalm or a hymn. 


Another of Luther's great contributions lay in the field of public 
worship, which he revised first in the interests of purity and then as 
a medium of instruction. While still at the Wartburg he had come to 
realize that some changes in the liturgy were imperative, and had ap- 
plauded Carlstadt's initial endeavors. Yet Luther himself was very 
conservative in such matters and desired to alter the beloved mass as 
little as possible. The main point was that all pretension to human 
merit should be excluded. Luther undertook in 1523 to make the 
minimal revisions essential to evangelical doctrine. His Formula Missae 
was in Latin. The canon of the mass disappeared because this was 
the portion in which the reference to sacrifice occurred. Luther re- 
stored the emphasis of the early Church upon the Lord's Supper as an 
act of thanksgiving to God and of fellowship through Christ with God 
and with each other. This first Lutheran mass was solely an act of wor- 
ship in which true Christians engaged in praise and prayer, and were 
strengthened in the inner man. 

But speedily Luther came to the recognition that an act of worship 
was not possible for many in the congregation without explanation. 
The Church embraced the community, and the congregation consisted 
of the townsfolk of Wittenberg and of the peasants from the villages 
round about. How 'much would these peasants understand of his re- 
vision of the Latin mass? They would of course recognize the change 
involved in giving to them the wine as well as the bread, and they 
would sense that something had altered when the inaudible portions 
were discontinued. But since it was still all in a foreign tongue they 
would hardly perceive that the idea of sacrifice was gone. The mass 



therefore would have to be in German. Others had felt this earlier 
than Luther, and Miintzer had prepared a German mass which Luther 
liked so long as he did not know it was Miintzer's. Gradually Luther 
came to the conclusion that he must undertake the revision himself. 
In 1526 he came out with the German mass. 

Everything was in German save for the Greek refrain, "Kyrie 
eleison." The changes left intact the essential structure; and a Swiss 
visitor in 1536, accustomed to simpler services, felt that the Lutherans 
had retained many elements of popery: genuflections, vestments, veer- 
ings to the altar or the audience, lectern and pulpit on opposite sides. 
Even the elevation of the elements was retained until 1542, To Luther 
all such points were indiff erent. He would not substitute a new formal- 
ism for an old and allowed very wide latitude and variation in liturgical 
matters. The main point was that in the German as in the Latin the 
canon of the mass was gone. In its place there was a simple exhortation 
to receive communion. But the whole tone of the service was altered 
in two respects: there was more of the scriptural and more of the in- 
structional. With the canon removed the Gospel and Epistle assumed 
a more prominent position; the words of institution were given in Ger- 
man; the sermon occupied a larger place, and not infrequently the 
notices were as long as the sermon. The church thus became not only 
the house of prayer and praise but also a classroom. 


The most far-reaching changes in the liturgy were with regard to 
the music, and those at three points: the chants intoned by the priest, 
the chorals rendered by the choir, and the hymns sung by the con- 
gregation. Luther set himself to revise all three- He was competent, if 
not to execute, at least to direct and inspire, since he could play the 
lute and sing even though he did not regard himself as skilled in com- 
position. Modern specialists are not agreed as to how many of the 
musical settings to his hymns may be his own. Ten are commonly 
ascribed to him. Certainly he knew how to compose simple melodies, 
to harmonize and arrange. Above all else he was able to inspire, because 
his enthusiasm for music was so great. He said: 



Music is a fair and lovely gift of God which has often wakened and 
moved me to the joy of preaching. St. Augustine was troubled in con- 
science whenever he caught himself delighting in music, which he took 
to be sinful. He was a choice spirit, and were he living today would agree 
with us. I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift 
of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget 
thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology 
I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor. I would not 
exchange what little I know of music for something great. Experience 
proves that next to the Word of God only music deserves to be extolled 
as the mistress and governess of the feelings of the human heart. We 
know that to the devils music is distasteful and insufferable. My heart 
bubbles up and overflows in response to music, which has so often re- 
freshed me and delivered me from dire plagues. 

Perhaps the fact that Diirer was old and Luther young when each 
embraced the reform may explain in a measure why in German Lu- 
theranism pictorial art declined in favor of the musical expression of 
the faith. 

The first melodic portion of the liturgy to be reformed was the part 
intoned by the priest, including the Epistle and Gospel. Since Luther 
was so desirous that every word of Scripture should be distinctly heard 
and understood, one wonders why he did not discontinue the music 
entirely in favor of reading in a natural voice. The answer lies in the 
architectural structure, which was more conducive to the word sung 
than to the word spoken. But Luther did employ every device to bring 
out the meaning. Only one note should be used for one syllable, and 
the organ accompaniment should not obscure the words. Throughout 
the service the organ was used only antiphonally. The Gospel texts 
should not be conflated, and the seven words of Christ from the cross 
were not to be blended from all four Gospels. The Lutheran tradition 
explains why Bach should write a St. Matthew's Passion. The meaning 
should be further emphasized by dramatic coloring. The Gregorian 
chants for the Epistle and the Gospel were monotone save for the 
lowering of the voice at the end. Luther introduced dijff erent registers 
for the narrative of the evangelist, the words of Christ, and the words 
of the apostles. The mean register he set high because his own voice was 


tenor, but he explained that he was offering only suggestions and each 
celebrant should discover and adapt the musical setting to suit his own 
liturgical range. Again the modes should be varied: the sixth should 
be used for the Gospel because Christ was joyful, and the eighth for 
the Epistle because Paul was more somber. This terminology calls for 
a word of explanation. Today we have a number of keys and only two 
modes, the major and minor. The intervals in all keys are those of C, 
conserved by the use of accidentals in transposing. In the sixteenth cen- 
tury eight modes were in vogue with different intervals formed by 
starting on each note of the octave and ascending without accidentals. 
The attention which Luther in all these respects devoted to musical 
settings for the prose text of the Scripture in the vernacular prepared 
the way for the oratorios. 

The degree to which he was assisted in his task appears in an account 
by his collaborator Walther, who wrote: 

When Luther forty years ago wanted to prepare his German mass, he 
requested of the Elector of Saxony and Duke John that Conrad Rupff 
and I be summoned to Wittenberg, where he might discuss music and 
the nature of the eight Gregorian psalm modes. He prepared the music for 
the Epistles and Gospels, likewise for the words of institution of the true 
body and blood of Christ; he chanted these for me and asked me to 
express my opinion of his efforts. At that time he kept me in Wittenberg 
for three weeks; we discussed how the Epistles and Gospels might 
properly be set. I spent many a pleasant hour singing with him and often 
found that he seemingly could not weary of singing or even get enough 
of it; in addition he was always able to discuss music eloquently. 

The second element to be revised was the choral for the choir. 
Here a rich background was available in the polyphonic religious 
music of the Netherlands which Luther admired above all other. The 
melody of the Gregorian chant was taken as a base, and about it 
three, four, or more voices rotated in counterpoint with elaborate 
embellishments. Luther himself in the preface to the musical work 
of 1538 gathered into a single passage all of his praises of music 
together with the most apt description ever penned of the Nether- 
landish polyphonic choral: 






4t ft* 

A ^ 


A. A^/" 




nfc effcr; ^a0 ifl mpy it Ic^b / &er fur 

Soldjs c$ut fo offt 

To all lovers of the liberal art of music Dr. Martin Luther wishes grace 
and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. With all my 
heart I would extol the precious gift of God in the noble art of music, 
but I scarcely know where to 
begin or end. There is nothing on 
earth which has not its tone. 
Even the air invisible sings when 
smitten with a staff. Among the 
beasts and the birds song is still 
more marvelous. David, himself a 
musician, testified with amaze- 
ment and joy to the song of the 
birds. What then shall I say of the br ^ ,,,. g , bs 
voice of man, to which naught C 
else may be compared? The 4 < 
heathen philosophers have striven L ncmpci 
in vain to explain how the tongue 4 ^ , 
of man can express the thoughts ' ,_ 
of the heart in speech and song, <<*> gcgc' 
through laughter and lamenta- 4^ <t> " 
tion. Music is to be praised as 
second only to the Word of God 
because by her are all the emotions swayed. Nothing on earth is more 
mighty to make the sad gay and the gay sad, to hearten the downcast, 
mellow the overweening, temper the exuberant, or mollify the vengeful. 
The Holy Spirit himself pays tribute to music when he records that the 
evil spirit of Saul was exorcised as David played upon his harp. The fa- 
thers desired that music should always abide in the Church. That is why 
there are so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been bestowed 
on men alone to remind them that they are created to praise and magnify 
the Lord. But when natural music is sharpened and polished by art, then 
one begins to see with amazement the great and perfect wisdom of God in 
his wonderful work of music, where one voice takes a simple part and 
around it sing three, four, or five other voices, leaping, springing round 
about, marvelously gracing the simple part, like a square dance in heaven 
with friendly bows, embracings, and hearty swinging of the partners. 
He who does not find this an inexpressible miracle of the Lord is truly a 
clod and is not worthy to be considered a man. 

Not the least merit of music, according to Luther, is that it is not 
contentious. He was never controversial in song. The great polyphonic 



chorals of the Netherlands were Catholic, but Luther did not for that 
reason cease to love and draw from them. Again, when the dukes of 
Bavaria became so much his violent enemies that to receive a letter from 
him might endanger one in their territories, he ventured nevertheless 
to write to the Bavarian composer Scnfl: "My love for music leads me 
also to hope that my letter will not endanger you in any way, for who 
even in Turkey would reproach one who loves the art and lauds the 
artist? At any rate I laud your Bavarian dukes even though they dislike 
me, and I honor them above all others because they cultivate and honor 
music." Erasmus sought to preserve the European unities in. politics; 
Luther conserved them in music. 

The polyphonic choral called for a choir. Luther was very assiduous 
in his efforts on bfchalf of trained choirs. George Rhaw, the cantor of 
Duke George and conductor of the twelve-part singing at the Leipzig 
debate, was brought to Wittenberg to serve alike as the cantor of the 
court choir and to the church. The choirs supported by the German 
princes are worthy of note because they provided ready to hand bodies 
of trained singers. Luther was greatly distressed when John Frederick 
economized by discontinuing the choir long maintained through the 
bounty of Frederick the Wise. By way of compensation choral so- 
cieties were formed in the cities, and above all the children were trained 
thoroughly in the schools. 

The last and greatest reform of all was in congregational song. In 
the Middle Ages the liturgy was almost entirely restricted to the cele- 
brant and the choir. The congregation joined in a few responses in 
the vernacular. Luther so developed this element that he may be con- 
sidered the father of congregational song. This was the point at which 
his doctrine of the priesthood of all believers received its most concrete 
realization. This was the point and the only point at which Lutheran- 
ism was thoroughly democratic. All the people sang* Portions of the 
liturgy were converted into hymns: the Creed and the Sanctw. The 
congregation sang not, "I believe," but, "We believe in one God-" The 
congregation sang how the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord high and 
lifted up and heard the seraphim intone, Holy, Holy, Holy, 




In addition in 1524 Luther brought out a hymnbook with twenty- 
three hymns of which he was the author and perhaps in part the com- 
poser. Twelve were free paraphrases from Latin hymnody. Six were 



Vine Luchere, Vme Melanthon, 
Viuicenoftrac Lumina tcrrx, 
Characp Chrifto Pecfiora^cr vos 
Inclyra nobis Dogmata Chn'fti 
Reddfca,vcfl:ro Muncrc 5 pulfis 
Nubibusatris, Prodrjcortu 
Candidiorc Dogma falutfs, 
Viuicclongos Ncftoris annos. 


versifications of the Psalms. His own experiences of anguish and de- 
liverance enabled him in such free renderings to invest the Psalms 
with a very personal feeling. "Out of the depths" became "In direst 
need." That great battle hymn of the Reformation, "A Mighty For- 
tress," appeared only in a later hymnbook. Here if anywhere we have 
both Luther's words and music, and here more than elsewhere we 
have the epitome of Luther's religious character. The hymn is based 
on the Vulgate version of the Forty-sixth Psalm, for Luther in his per- 
sonal devotions continued to use the Latin on which he had been 
reared. Whereas in this psalm the Hebrew reads "God is our refuge," 
The Latin has "Our God is a refuge." Similarly Luther begins, "A 



mighty fortress is our God." Though the Forty-sixth Psalm is basic, 
it is handled with exceeding freedom and interwoven with many 
reminiscences of the Pauline epistles and the Apocalypse. Richly 
quarried, rugged words set to majestic tones marshal the embattled 
hosts .of heaven. The hymn to the end strains under the overtones 
of cosmic conflict as the Lord God of Sabaoth smites the prince of 
darkness grim and vindicates the martyred saints. 

Luther's people learned to sing. Practices were set during the week 
for the entire congregation, and in the home after the catechetical hour 
singing was commended to the family. A Jesuit testified that "the 
hymns of Luther killed more souls than his sermons." How the songs 
were carried to the people is disclosed in this excerpt from a chronicle 
of the city of Magdeburg: 

On the day of St. John between Easter and Pentecost, an old man, a 
weaver, came through the city gate to the monument of Kaiser Otto 
and there offered hymns for sale while he sang them to the people. The 
burgomaster, coming from early mass and seeing the crowd, asked one of 
his servants what was going on. "There is an old scamp over there," he 
answered, "who is singing and selling the hymns of the heretic Luther." 
The burgomaster had him arrested and thrown into prison; but two hun- 
dred citizens interceded and he was released. 

Among the hymns which he was singing through the streets of 
Magdeburg was Luther's Aus tiefer Not: 

I cry to thee in direst need. 

O God, I beg thee hear me. 
To my distress I pray give heed, 

O Father, draw thou near me. 
If thou shouldst wish to look upon 
The wrong and wickedness I've done, 

How could I stand before thee? 

With thee is naught but untold grace 

Evermore forgiving. 
We cannot stand before thy face, 



by the best: of living. 
TsTo man boasting may dra^v near. 
All the living stand in. fear. 

Thy grace alone can. save them. 

Therefore in God. I place my trust, 

IVty o^wn claim denying. 
Believe in him alone I miast, 

On. his sole grace relying. 
He pledged to me his plighted 
JMy comfort is in what I heard. 

There "will I hold forever. 




ISTINGUISHED alike in the translation of the 
Bible, the composition of the catechism, the re- 
form of the liturgy, and the creation of the 
hymnbook, Luther was equally great in the ser- 
mons preached from the pulpit, the lectures 
delivered in the class hall, and the prayers 
voiced in the upper room. His versatility is 
genuinely amazing. No one in his own' genera- 
tion was able to vie with him. 


The Reformation gave centrality to the sermon. The pulpit was 
higher than the altar, for Luther held that salvation is through the 
Word and without the Word the elements are devoid of sacramental 
quality, but the Word is sterile unless it is spoken. All of this is not to 
say that the Reformation invented preaching, In the century preced- 
ing Luther, for the single province of Westphalia ten thousand sermons 
are in print, and though they are extant only in Latin they were de- 
livered in German, But the Reformation did exalt the sermon. All the 
educational devices described in the preceding chapter found their 
highest utilization in the pulpit. The reformers at Wittenberg under- 
took an extensive campaign of religious instruction through the ser- 
mon. There were three public services on Sunday: from five to six in 
the morning on the Pauline epistles, from nine to ten on the Gospels, 
and in the afternoon at a variable hour on a continuation of the theme 
of the morning or on the catechism. The church was not locked during 



the week, but on Mondays and Tuesdays there were sermons on the 
catechism, Wednesdays on the Gospel of Matthew, Thursdays and 
Fridays on the apostolic letters, and Saturday evening on John's Gos- 
pel. No one man carried this entire load. There was a staff of the clergy, 
but Luther's share was prodigious. Including family devotions he 
spoke often four times on Sundays and quarterly undertook a two- 
week series four days a week on the catechism. The sum of his extant 
sermons is 2,300. The highest count is for the year 1528, for which 
there are 195 sermons distributed over 145 days. 

His pre-eminence in the pulpit derives in part from the earnestness 
with which he regarded the preaching office. The task of the minister 
is to expound the Word, in which alone are to be found healing for 
life's hurts and the balm of eternal blessedness. The preacher must die 
daily through concern lest he lead his flock astray. Sometimes from the 
pulpit Luther confessed that gladly like the priest and the Levite 
would he pass by on the other side. But Luther was constantly repeat- 
ing to himself the advice which he gave to a discouraged preacher 
who complained that preaching was a burden, his sermons were al- 
ways short, and he might better have stayed in his former profession. 
Luther said to him: 

Contrast of the Evangelical service, where devout hearers listen with reverent 
attention and signs of contrition. The girl on the left is reading the Scriptures, 

And the Catholic service, where the people lightheartedly tell their beads. 
The man behind the pillar is pointing in both directions. 



If Peter and Paul were here, they would scold you because you wish 
right off to be as accomplished as they. Crawling is something, even if 
one is unable to walk. Do your best. If you cannot preach an hour, then 
preach half an hour or a quarter of an hour. Do not try to imitate other 
people. Center on the shortest and simplest points, which are the very 
heart of the matter, and leave the rest to God. Look solely to his honor 
and not to applause. Pray that God will give you a mouth and to your 
audience ears. I can tell you preaching is not a work of man. Although 
I am old [he was forty-eight] and experienced, I am afraid every time I 
have to preach. You will most certainly find out three things: first, you 
will have prepared your sermon as diligently as you know how, and it 
will slip through your fingers like water; secondly, you may abandon 
your outline and God will give you grace. You will preach your very 
best. The audience will be pleased, but you won't. And thirdly, when 
you have been unable in advance to pull anything together, you will 
preach acceptably both to your hearers and to yourself. So pray to God 
and leave all the rest to him. 

Luther's sermons followed the course prescribed by the Christian 
year and the lessons assigned by long usage to each Sunday. In this 
area he did not innovate. Because he commonly spoke at the nine 
o'clock service, his sermons are mostly on the Gospels rather than upon 
his favorite Pauline epistles. But the text never mattered much to him. 
If he did not have before him the Pauline words, "The just shall live 
by faith," he could readily extract the same point from the example of 
the paralytic in the Gospels, whose sins were forgiven before his disease 
was cured. Year after year Luther preached on the same passages and 
on the same great events: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, 
Pentecost. If one now reads through his sermons of thirty years on a 
single theme, one is amazed at the freshness with which each year he 
illumined some new aspect. When one has the feeling that there is 
nothing startling this time, then comes a flash. He is narrating the be- 
trayal of Jesus. Judas returns the thirty pieces of silver with the words, 
"I have betrayed innocent blood," and the priest answers, "What is 
that to us?" Luther comments that there is no loneliness like the loneli- 
ness of a traitor since even his confederates give him no sympathy. The 
sermons cover every theme from the sublimity of God to the greed of 



a sow. The conclusions were often abrupt because the sermon was 
followed by the announcements, themselves frequently as long as the 
sermon because all the events of the coming week were explained with 
appropriate or inappropriate exhortations and castigations. A few 
samples from the sermons and announcements will have to suffice. 

The first example shows how he would pass directly from the ser- 
mon to the announcements. The financial difficulties to which he re- 
fers had not been solved by the intervention of the prince, and each 
member of the congregation was therefore urged to give four pennies. 
Luther points out that personally he is not affected because he receives 
his stipend as a university professor from the prince. The following 
excerpts are of course exceedingly condensed. 

The sermon on the 8th of November, 1528, was on the lord who for- 
gave his servant: This lord, said Luther, is a type of the Kingdom of 
God. The servant was not forgiven because he had forgiven his fellow 
servant. On the contrary he received forgiveness before he had done 
anything whatever about his fellow servant. From this we see that there 
are two kinds of forgiveness. The first is that which we receive from 
God; the second is that which we exercise by bearing no ill will to any 
upon earth. But we must not overlook the two administrations, the civil 
and the spiritual, because the prince cannot and should not forgive. He 
has a different administration than Christ, who rules over crashed and 
broken hearts. The Kaiser rules over scoundrels who do not recognize 
their sins and mock and carry their heads high. That is why the emperor 
carries a sword, a sign of blood and not of peace. But Christ's kingdom 
is for the troubled conscience. He says, "I do not ask of you a penny, 
only this, that you do the same for your neighbor." And the lord in the 
parable does not tell the servant to found a monastery, but simply that 
he should have mercy on his fellow servants. 

But now what shall I say to you Wittenbergers? It would be better 
that I preach to you the Sacks ens fie gel [the imperial law], because you 
want to be Christians while still practicing usury, robbing and stealing. 
How do people who are so sunk in sins expect to receive forgiveness? 
The sword of the emperor really applies here, but my sermon is for 
crushed hearts who feel their sins and have no peace. Enough for this 

I understand that this is the week for the church collection, and many 


of you do not want to give a thing. You ungrateful people should be 
ashamed of yourselves. You Wittenbergers have been relieved of schools 
and hospitals, which have been taken over by the common chest, and 
now you want to know why you are asked to give four pennies. They are 
for the ministers, schoolteachers, and sacristans. The first labor for your 
salvation, preach to you the precious treasure of the gospel, administer 
the sacraments, and visit you at great personal risk in the plague. The 
second train children to be good magistrates, judges, and ministers. The 
third care for the poor. So far the common chest has cared for these, and 
now that you are asked to give four miserable pennies you are up in arms. 
What does this mean if not that you do not want the gospel preached, 
the children taught, and the poor helped? I am not saying this for myself. 
I receive nothing from you. I am the prince's beggar. But I am sorry 
I ever freed you from the tyrants and the papists. You ungrateful beasts, 
you are not worthy of the treasure of the gospel. If you don't improve, I 
will stop preaching rather than cast pearls before swine. 

And now another point: couples to be blessed by the curate before a 
wedding should come early. There are seated hours: in summer, mornings 
at eight and afternoons at three; in winter, mornings at nine and after- 
noons at two. If you come later, I will bless you myself, and you won't 
thank me for it. And the invited guests should prepare themselves in good 
time for the wedding and let not Miss Goose wait for Mrs. Duck. 

On January 10th, 1529, the lesson was the wedding at Cana of Galilee. 
This passage, said Luther, is written in honor of marriage. There are three 
estates: marriage, virginity, and widowhood. They are all good. None is 
to be despised. The virgin is not to be esteemed above the widow, nor 
the widow above the wife, any more than the tailor is to be esteemed 
above the butcher. There is no estate to which the Devil is so opposed as 
to marriage. The clergy have not wanted to be bothered with work and 
worry. They have been afraid of a nagging wife, disobedient children, 
difficult relatives, or the dying of a pig or a cow. They want to lie abed 
until the sun shines through the window. Our ancestors knew this and 
would say, "Dear child, be a priest or a nun and have a good time/' I 
have heard married people say to monks, "You have it easy, but when 
we get up we do not know where to find our bread-" Marriage is a 
heavy cross because so many couples quarrel. It is the grace of God when 
they agree. The Holy Spirit declares there are three wonders: when 
brothers agree, when neighbors love each other, and when a man and a 
wife are at one. When I see a pair like that, I am as glad as if I were in 
a garden of roses. It is rare* 



Luther is at his best and most characteristic in his sermons on the 
Nativity. The entire recital appears utterly artless, but by way of 
preparation he had steeped himself in the interpretations of the story 
by Augustine, Bernard, Tauler, and Ludwig of Saxony, the author of 
a life of Christ. All that thus had preceded was infused by Luther 
with the profundities of his theology and vitalized by his graphic imagi- 
nation. Here is an example: 

How unobtrusively and simply do those events take place on earth that 
are so heralded in heaven! On earth it happened in this wise: There was 
a poor young wife, Mary of Nazareth, among the meanest dwellers of 
the town, so little esteemed that none noticed the great wonder that she 
carried. She was silent, did not vaunt herself, but served her husband, who 
had no man or maid. They simply left the house. Perhaps they had a 
donkey for Mary to ride upon, though the Gospels say nothing about 
it, and we may well believe that she went on foot. The journey was 
certainly more than a day from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, which 
lies on the farther side of Jerusalem. Joseph had thought, "When we get 
to Bethlehem, we shall be among relatives and can borrow everything," 


On the left is Luther's seal. He desired that the cross be black -for mortifica- 
tion, the rose 'white for the joy of faith^ the field blue for the joy of heaven, 
and the ring gold for eternal blessedness. 



A fine idea that was! Bad enough that a young bride married only a year 
could not have had her baby at Nazareth in her own house instead of 
making all that journey of three days when heavy with child! How much 
worse that when she arrived there was no room for her! The inn was full. 
No one would release a room to this pregnant woman. She had to go to a 
cow stall and there bring forth the Maker of all creatures because nobody 
would give way. Shame on you, wretched Bethlehem! The inn ought to 
have been burned with brimstone, for even though Mary had been a 
beggar maid or unwed, anybody at such a time should have been glad to 
give her a hand. There are many of you in this congregation who think 
to yourselves: "If only I had been there! How quick I would have been 
to help the Baby! I would have washed his linen. How happy I would 
have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manger!" 
Yes, you would! You say that because you know how great Christ is, but 
if you had been there at that time you would have done no better than 
the people of Bethlehem. Childish and silly thoughts are these! Why 
don't you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbor. You ought to 
serve him, for what you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord 
Christ himself. The birth was still more pitiable. No one regarded this 
young wife bringing forth her first-born. No one took her condition to 
heart. No one noticed that in a strange place she had not the very least 
thing needful in childbirth. There she was without preparation: no light, 
no fire, in the dead of night, in thick darkness* No one came to give the 
customary assistance. The guests swarming in the inn were carousing, 
and no one attended to this woman. I think myself if Joseph and Mary 
had realized that her time was so close she might perhaps have been left 
in Nazareth. And now think what she could use for swaddling clothes- 
some garment she could spare, perhaps her veil certainly not Joseph's 
breeches, which are now on exhibition at Aachen* 

Think, women, there was no one there to bathe the Baby, No warm 
water, nor even cold. No fire, no light. The mother was herself midwife 
and the maid. The cold manger was the bed and the bathtub. Who 
showed the poor girl what to do? She had never had a baby before. I am 
amazed that the little one did not freeze. Do not make of Mary a stone. 
For the higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender are they. 

Let us, then, meditate upon the Nativity just as we see it happening 
in our own babies. Behold Christ lying in the lap of his young mother. 
What can be sweeter than the Babe, what more lovely than the mother! 
What fairer than her youth! What more gracious than her virginity! Look 
at the Child, knowing nothing* Yet all that is belongs to him, that your 



conscience should not fear but take comfort in him. Doubt nothing. To 
me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ 
became man, a child, a babe, playing in the lap and at the breasts of his 
most gracious mother. Who is there whom this sight would not comfort? 
Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if 
you come to this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come, not to judge 
you, but to save. 


As Luther's sermons were often didactic, so were his lectures com- 
monly sermonic. He was always teaching, whether in the classroom 
or the pulpit; and he was always preaching, whether in the pulpit or 
the classroom. His lectures on Jonah are even more of a sermon than 
many preached in the Castle Church. Luther handled Jonah as he did 
every other biblical character as a mirror of his own experience. Here 
is a digest of the exposition. 

Jonah was sent to rebuke the mighty king of Assyria. That took 
courage. If we had been there, we should have thought it silly that one 
single man should attack such an empire. How silly it would seem for 
one of us to go on such a mission to the Turks. And how ridiculous often 
it has appeared that a single man should rebuke the pope. But God's work 
always appears as folly. 

"And Jonah took ship for Tarshish." The godless think they can get 
away from God by going to a town where he is not recognized. Why 
did Jonah refuse? First because the assignment was very great. No prophet 
had ever been chosen to go to the heathen. Another reason was that he 
felt the enmity of Nineveh. He thought God was only the God of the 
Jews, and he would rather be dead than proclaim the grace of God to the 

Then God sent a great wind. Why should he have involved the other 
passengers in Jonah's punishment? We are not the ones to lay down rules 
for God, and for that matter the other persons on the boat were not 
innocent. We have all transgressed. The storm must have been very 
sudden because the people felt that it must have an unusual cause. Natural 
reason taught the sailors that God is God. The light of reason is a great 
light, but it fails in that it is ready to believe that God is God, but not 
to believe that God is God to you. These people called on God. This 
proves that they believed he was God, that is to others, but they did not 



really believe he would help them, otherwise they would not have thrown 
Jonah overboard. They did their uttermost to save the ship like the 
papists who try to be saved by works. 

Jonah was asleep in the hold. Men are like that when they have sinned. 
They feel no compunction. If God had forgotten his sin, Jonah would 
never have given it another thought. But when he was awakened and saw 
the state of the ship he recognized his guilt. His conscience became active* 
Then he felt the sting of death and the anger of God. Not only the ship 
but the whole world was too small for him* He admitted his fault and 
cleared all the others. This is what contrition does. It makes all the world 
innocent and yourself only a sinner. But Jonah was not yet ready to make 
a public acknowledgment. He let the sailors wrestle until God made it 
plain that they would all perish with him. No one would confess. They 
had to cast lots. Wounds cannot be healed until they are revealed, and 
sins cannot be forgiven until they are confessed. Some say that they 
sinned in casting lots, but I cannot see that lot-casting is forbidden in 

Then Jonah said, "I am a Hebrew. I fear the God who made heaven 
and earth." The weight of sin and conscience is made greater if confessed. 
Then faith begins to burn, albeit weakly. When God's wrath overtakes 
us there are always two things, sin and anxiety. Some allow the sin to stand 
and center on the anxiety. That won't do. Reason does this when faith and 
grace are not present. 

Jonah confessed his sin to be all the greater when he said, "I am a 
Hebrew and a worshiper of the true God." This made him all the more 
inexcusable. And Jonah said, "Throw me into the sea." The sailors thought 
confession was enough, and they set to work again on the oars. Jonah 
had to plumb the shame which was a thousand times greater because it 
was against God. For such a one there is no corner into which he may 
creep, no, not even in hell. He did not foresee his deliverance. God takes 
all honor and all comfort away and leaves only shame and desolation. 

Then came death, for the sting of death is sin. Jonah pronounced his 
own sentence, "Throw me into the sea." We must always remember that 
Jonah could not see to the end. He saw only death, death* death* The 
worst of it was that this death was due to God's anger. It would not be so 
bad to die as a martyr, but when death is a punishment it is truly horrible. 
Who does not tremble before death, even though he does not feel the 
wrath of God? But if there be also sin and conscience, who can endure 
shame before God and the world? What a stfuggle must have taken place 
in Jonah's heart* He must have sweat blood. He had to fight against sin, 



against his own conscience, the feeling of his heart, against death, and 
against God's anger all at once. 

As if the sea were not enough, God prepared a great fish. As the 
monster opened its frightful jaws, the teeth were jagged like mountain 
peaks. The waves rushed in and swept Jonah into the belly. What a 
picture is this of Anfechtung. Just so the conscience wilts before the 
wrath of God, death, hell, and damnation. "And Jonah was three days and 
three nights in the belly of the whale." Those were the longest three 
days and three nights that ever happened under the sun. His lungs and 
liver pounded. He would hardly have looked around to see his habitation. 
He was thinking, "When, when, when will this end?" 

How could anyone imagine that a man could be three days and three 
nights in the belly of a fish without light, without food, absolutely alone, 
and come out alive? Who would not take this for a fairy tale if it were 
not in Scripture? 

But God is even in hell. 

"And Jonah prayed unto the Lord from the belly of the whale." I do 
not believe he could compose such a fine psalm while he was down there, 
but this shows what he was thinking. He was not expecting his salvation. 
He thought he must die, yet he prayed, "I cried by reason of mine afflic- 
tion unto the Lord." This shows that we must always pray to God. If you 
can just cry, your agony is over. Hell is not hell any more if you can 
cry to God. But no one can believe how hard this is. We can understand 
wailing, trembling, sighing, doubting, but to cry out, this is what we 
cannot do. Conscience, sin, and the wrath of God are about our necks. 
Nature cannot cry out. When Jonah reached the point that he could cry, 
he had won. Cry unto the Lord in your anguish, and it will be milder. Just 
cry and nothing else. He does not ask about your merit. Reason does not 
understand this, and always wants to bring in something to placate God. 
But there just is nothing to bring. Reason does not believe that all that 
is needed to quiet God's anger is a cry. 

"All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." Observe that Jonah 
calls them thy waves. If a wind-blown leaf can affright a host, what must 
not the sea have done to Jonah? And what will not the majesty of God 
at the judgment day do to all angels and all creatures? "My soul melted 
within me, and I thought of the Lord." This is to turn from the God of 
judgment to God the Father. But this does not lie in the power of man. 
"I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving, I will pay that 
I had vowed." "And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it cast Jonah forth 
upon the dry land." The instrument of death is become the agency of life. 



Luther was above all else a man of prayer, and yet of his prayers we 
have less than of his sermons and conversations because he succeeded in 
keeping his students out of the secret chamber. There are the collects 
which he composed for the liturgy, the prayer for the sacristy, and 
a prayer reputed to have been overheard by his roommate at Worms. 
We are on safer ground in the following excerpts from his exposition 
of the Lord's Prayer: 

Luther instructs his readers to say: O Heavenly Father, dear God, I 
am not worthy that I should lift up mine eyes or my hands to thee in 
prayer, but since thou hast commanded us to pray and hast taught us how 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, I will say, "Give us this day our daily 
bread." O dear Lord Father, give us thy blessing in this earthly life. Give 
us graciously thy peace and spare us from war. Grant to our Kaiser wis- 
dom and understanding that he may govern his earthly kindom in peace 
and blessedness. Give to all kings, princes, and lords good counsel that 
they may direct their lands in quietness and justice, and especially guard 
the ruler of our dear land. Protect him from malignant tongues, and instill 
into all subjects grace to serve in fidelity and obedience. Bestow on us 
good weather and the fruits of the earth. We commend unto thee house, 
grounds, wife, and child. Help that we may govern, nourish, and rear. 
Ward off the Corrupter and the evil angels who impede these things. 

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against 
us." Dear Lord and Father, enter not into judgment with us, since before 
thee is no man living justified. Reckon not unro us our transgressions and 
that we are so ungrateful of all thy unspeakable mercies of the spirit and 
of the body, and that we daily fail more than we know or are aware* Mark 
not how good or evil we be, but vouchsafe to us thy unmerited mercy 
through Jesus Christ, thy dear Son. Forgive also all our enemies and all 
who have hurt and done us wrong as \ve also forgive them from our 
hearts, for they do themselves the greatest wrong in that they kindle thee 
against them. But we are not helped by their loss and would much rather 
that they be blessed. Amen. (And if anyone here feels that he cannot 
forgive, let him pray for grace that he may. But that is a point which be- 
longs to preaching.) 




LWAYS more intimately personal than his 
teaching and preaching was Luther's pastoral 
counseling. Neither in the classroom nor in 
the pulpit was the personal ever wholly absent. 
But when the physician was engaged in the 
cure of souls, he drew almost exclusively on 
that which he had himself discovered to be 
good for like ailments. For that reason any 
consideration of what he did for others by way of allaying spiritual 
distress must take the form of the further analysis of his own maladies 
and of the remedies which he found to be of avail alike for himself 
and for others. 


At the outset the recognition is inescapable that he had persistent 
maladies. This man who so undergirded others with faith had for 
himself a perpetual battle for faith. Perhaps the severest upheaval of 
his whole life came in the year 1527. The recurrence of these de- 
pressions raises for us again the question whether they may have had 
some physical basis, and the question really cannot be answered. The 
attempt to discover a correlation between his many diseases and the 
despondencies has proved unsuccessful, and one must not forget in 
this connection that his spiritual ailments were acute in the monastery 
before the physical had begun. To discover a connection with out- 
ward events is more plausible. Crises were precipated by a thunder- 
storm, by the saying of the first mass, and in 1527 by the total impact 



of the radicals, coupled with the fact that Luther was still sleeping in 
his own bed while his followers were dying for the faith. As he came 
out from under the state of shock which overtook him, he was wres- 
tling with the self-reproach of being still alive. "I was not worthy,'* 
he was saying, "to shed my blood for Christ as many of my fellow 
confessors of the gospel have done. Yet this honor was denied to the 
beloved disciple, John the Evangelist, who wrote a much worse book 



against the papacy than ever I did." Although outward events af- 
fected him, the very nature of the dark night of the soul is that it 
may be occasioned by nothing tangible whatever. Physical debilita- 
tion was more often the effect than the cause. 

The content of the depressions was always the same, the loss of 
faith that God is good and that he is good to me. After the frightful 
Anfechtung of 1527 Luther wrote, "For more than a week I was 
close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. 
Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy 
of God." His agony in the later years was all the more intense be- 
cause he was a physician of souls; and if the medicine which he had 
prescribed for himself and for them was actually poison, how fright- 
ful was his responsibility. The great problem for him was not to 
know where his depressions came from, but to know how to over- 
come them. In the course of repeated utterances on the subject he 
worked out a technique for himself and for his parishioners. 

The first comfort which he offered was the reflection that intense 
upheavals of the spirit are necessary for valid solutions of genuine 
religious problems. The emotional reactions may be unduly acute, 
for the Devil always turns a louse into a camel. Nevertheless the 
way of man with God cannot be tranquil. 

If I live longer, I would like to write a book about Anfechtungen, 
for without them no man can understand Scripture, faith, the fear or the 
love of God. He does not know the meaning of hope who was never 
subject to temptations. 

David must have been plagued by a very fearful devil. He could not 
have had such profound insights if he had not experienced great assaults. 

Luther verged on saying that an excessive emotional sensitivity is a 
mode of revelation. Those who are predisposed to fall into despond- 
ency as well as to rise into ecstasy may be able to view reality from an 
angle different from that of ordinary folk. Yet it is a true angle; and 
when the problem or the religious object has been once so viewed, 
others less sensitive will be able to look from a new vantage point and 
testify that the insight is valid. 




Luther felt that his depressions were necessary. At the same time 
they were dreadful and by all means and in every way to be avoided 
and overcome. His whole life was a struggle against them, a fight for 
faith. This is the point at which he interests us so acutely, for we too 
are cast down and we too would know how to assuage our despond- 
ency. Luther had two methods: the one was a head-on attack, the 
other an approach by way of indirection. Sometimes he would engage 
in direct encounter with the Devil. This particular wise en scene may 
amuse the modern reader and incline him not to take Luther seriously; 
but it is noteworthy that what the Devil says to Luther is only what 
one says to oneself in moments of introspection, and, what is still 
more significant, only the minor difficulties were referred to the Devil. 
In all the major encounters, God himself was the assailant. The Devil 
was something of a relief. Luther relished, by comparison, the personi- 
fication of his enemy in the form of a being whom he could bait with- 
out danger of blasphemy* He describes with gusto some of these 

When I go to bed, the Devil is always waiting for me* When he begins 
to plague me, I give him this answer: "Devil, I must sleep. That's God's 
command, 'Work by day. Sleep by night.' So go away," If that doesn't 
work and he brings out a catalog of sins, I say, "Yes, old fellow, I know 
all about it. And I know some more you have overlooked. Here are a 
few extra. Put them down." If he still won't quit and presses me hard 
and accuses me as a sinner, I scorn him and say, "St. Satan, pray for me. 
Of course you have never done anything wrong in your life* You alone 
are holy. Go to God and get grace for yourself. If you want to get me 
all straightened out, I say, 'Physician, heal thyself/ " 

Sometimes Luther had the temerity to undertake also the greater en- 
counter with God himself. "I dispute much with God with great im- 
patience," said he, "and I hold him to his promises." The Canaanite 
woman was a source of unending wonder and comfort to Luther be- 
cause she had the audacity to argue with Christ. When she asked him 
to come and cure her daughter, he answered that he was not sent but 



to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and that it was not meet to 
take the children's bread and give it to the dogs. She did not dispute his 
judgment. She agreed that she was a dog. She asked no more than that 
which befits a dog, to lick up the crumbs which fall from the chil- 
dren's table. She took Christ at his own words. He then treated her not 
as a dog but as a child of Israel. 

All this is written for our comfort that we should see how deeply God 
hides his face and how we must not go by our feeling but only by his 
Word. All Christ's answers sounded like no, but he did not mean no. He 
had not said that she was not of the house of Israel. He had not said that 
she was a dog. He had not said no. Yet all his answers were more like no 
than yes. This shows how our heart feels in despondency. It sees nothing 
but a plain no. Therefore it must turn to the deep hidden yes under the 
no and hold with a firm faith to God's word. 


At times, however, Luther advised against any attempt to wrestle 
one's way through. "Don't argue with the Devil," he said. "He has had 
five thousand years of experience. He has tried out all his tricks on 
Adam, Abraham, and David, and he knows exactly the weak spots." 
And he is persistent. If he does not get you down with the first assault, 
he will commence a siege of attrition until you give in from sheer ex- 
haustion. Better banish the whole subject. Seek company and discuss 
some irrelevant matter as, for example, what is going on in Venice. 
Shun solitude. "Eve got into trouble when she walked in the garden 
alone. I have my worst temptations when I am by myself." Seek out 
some Christian brother, some wise counselor. Undergird yourself with 
the fellowship of the church. Then, too, seek convivial company, 
feminine company, dine, dance, joke, and sing. Make yourself eat and 
drink even though food may be very distasteful. Fasting is the very 
worst expedient. Once Luther gave three rules for dispelling despond- 
ency: the first is faith in Christ; the second is to get downright angry; 
the third is the love of a woman. Music was especially commended. 
The Devil hates it because he cannot endure gaiety. Luther's physician 
relates that on one occasion he came with some friends for a musical 
soiree only to find Luther in a swoon; but when the others struck up 



the song, he was soon one of the party. Home life was a comfort and 
a diversion. So also was the presence of his wife when the Devil as- 
saulted him in the night watches. "Then I turn to my Katie and say, 
'Forbid me to have such temptations, and recall me from such vain 
vexations/ " Manual labor was a relief. A good way, counseled Luther, 

to exorcise the Devil is 
to harness the horse and 
spread manure on the 
fields. In all this advice 
to flee the fray Luther 
was in a way prescribing 
faith as a cure for the 
lack of faith. To give up 
the argument is of itself 
an act of faith akin to the 
Gelasrsenheit of the mys- 
tics, an expression of 
confidence in the restor- 
ative power of God, who 
man occupies himself with 



operates in the subconscious 
extraneous things* 

This explains why Luther liked to watch those who take life blithe- 
ly, such as birds and babies. When he saw his little Martin nursing, he 
remarked, "Child, your enemies are the pope, the bishops, Duke 
George, Ferdinand, and the Devil And there you are sucking uncon- 

When Anastasia, then four years old, was prattling of Christ, angels, 
and heaven, Luther said, "My dear child, if only we could hold fast 
to this f aith." 

"Why, papa/' said she, "don't you beEeve it? 11 

Luther commented: 

Christ has made the children our teachers* I am chagrined that although! 
I am ever so much a doctor, I still have to go to the same school with 1 



Hans and Magdalena, for who among men can understand the full mean- 
ing of this word of God, "Our Father who art in heaven"? Anyone who 
genuinely believes these words will often say, "I am the Lord of heaven 
and earth and all that is therein. The Angel Gabriel is my servant, Raphael 
is my guardian, and the angels in my every need are ministering spirits. 
My Father, who is in heaven, will give them charge over me lest I dash 
my foot against a stone." And while I am affirming this faith, my Father 
suffers me to be thrown into prison, drowned, or beheaded. Then faith 
falters and in weakness I cry, "Who knows whether it is true?" 


Merely watching children could not answer that question. The 
encounter had to be resumed on the direct level. If Luther was dis- 
turbed about the state of the world and the state of the Church, he 
could gain reassurance only through the recognition that as a matter 
of plain fact the situation was not bad. Despite the many pessimistic 
judgments of his later years Luther could say, "I entertain no sorry pic- 
ture of our Church, but rather that of the Church flourishing through 
pure and uncorrupted teaching and one increasing with excellent 
ministers from day to day." 

At other times the depression was with regard to himself. One re- 
calls his oscillation of feeling at the Wartburg as to whether he had 
been brash or craven. The answer in his own case could never be 
that he had any claim on God, and then the question forever recurred 
whether God would then be gracious. When one is assailed by this 
doubt, where shall one turn? Luther would say that one never knows 
where, but always somewhere. To inquire after the starting point of 
Luther's theology is futile. It begins where it can. Christ himself ap- 
pears variable, sometimes as a good Shepherd and sometimes as the 
avenging Judge. If then Christ appeared hostile, Luther would turn 
to God and would recall the first commandment, "I am the Lord thy 
God." This very pronouncement is at the same time a promise, and 
God must be held to his promises. 

In such a case we must say, "Let go everything in which I have trusted. 
Lord, thou alone givest help and comfort. Thou hast said that thou 
wouldst help me. I believe thy word. O my God and Lord, I have heard 



from thee a joyful and comforting word. I hold to it. I kn Ow thou 
not lie to me. No matter how thou mayest appear, thou wilt keep 
thou hast promised, that and nothing else." 

On the other hand, if God hides himself in the storm clouds which 
brood over the brow of Sinai, then gather about the mange r look u 
the infant Jesus as he leaps in the lap of his mother, and know 
the hope of the world is here. Or again, if Christ and Q 0( j ^ifa 
unapproachable, then look upon the firmament of the heavens and 
marvel at the work of God, who sustains them without pill ars Qr take 
the meanest flower and see in the smallest petal the handiwork of 

All the external aids of religion are to be prized. Luther attache^ 
great importance to his baptism. When the Devil assailed him he would 
answer, "I am baptized." In his conflicts with the Catholics and th e 
radicals he reassured himself similarly by making appeal to his doctor- 
ate. This gave him authority and the right to speak. 


But always and above all else the one great objective aid for Luther 
was the Scriptures, because this is the written record of the revelation 
of God in Christ. "The true Christian pilgrimage is not to Rome of 
Compostela, but to the prophets, the Psalms, and the Gospels." The 
Scriptures assumed for Luther an overwhelming importance not 
primarily as a source book for antipapal polemic, but as the one ground 
of certainty. He had rejected the authority of popes and councils an<l 
could not make a beginning from within as did the prophets of the in- 
ward word. The core of his quarrel with them was that in moments 
of despondency he could find nothing within but utter blackness tl e 
was completely lost unless he could find something without on which 
to lay hold. And this he found in the Scriptures. 

He approached them uncritically, from our point of view but 
with credulity. Nothing so amazed him in all the biblical record as 
faith of the participants: that Mary credited the annunciation of th 6 
angel Gabriel; that Joseph gave credence to the dream ^hich allave<i 



his misgivings; that the shepherds believed the opening of the heavens 
and the angels' song; that the Wise Men were ready to go to Bethlehem 
at the word of the prophet. There were three miracles of the Nativity: 
that God became man, that a virgin conceived, and that Mary be- 
lieved. And the greatest of these was the last. When the Wise Men 
relied upon their judgment and went straight to Jerusalem without 
consulting the star, God lifted it out of heaven and left them bewil- 
dered to make inquiry of Herod, who then called his wise men and they 
searched the Scriptures. And that is what we must do when we are 
bereft of the star. 

But this is just the point where Luther's lead begins to elude us. We 
can follow him well enough in the description of his distress. It is 
when he offers us this way out that we are cast down. Must we leave 
him now like some Vergil in Purgatory and seek in another the Bea- 
trice who may be able to conduct us to Paradise? Perhaps a word of 
Luther may help us, after all, for he declared that the gospel is not 
so much a miracle as a marvel, nan vnvracida $ed wnrabilia. There is no 
better way to feel the wonder than to take Luther as guide. Let him 
portray for us, with all his power and poignancy, the spiritual de- 
spondencies of the biblical characters and the way in which they were 
able to find the hand of the Lord, 

We have already seen an example in the case of his treatment of 
Jonah. By way of f urther illustration let us take Jhis portrayal of the 
sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. Save for the initial assumption that 
God commanded the sacrifice and that the angel intervened in the end, 
all else is the record of an inner struggle which is not hard to translate 
into the story of an emerging insight or an unfolding revelation. Hear 
Luther as he expounds the tale: 

Abraham was told by God that he must sacrifice the son of his old 
age by a miracle, the seed through whom he was to become the father 
of kings and of a great nation. Abraham turned pale. Not only would he 
lose his son, but God appeared to be a Han He had said, "In Isaac shall 
be thy seed," but now he said, "Kill Isaac, 1 * Who would not hate a God 
so cruel and contradictory? How Abraham longed to talk it over with 
someone! Could he not tell Sarah? But he well knew that if he mentioned 



it to anyone he would be dissuaded and prevented from carrying out the 
behest. The spot designated for the sacrifice, Mount Moriah, was some 
distance away; "and Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled 
his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and 
clave the wood for the burnt-offering." Abraham did not leave the 
saddling of the ass to others. He himself laid on the beast the wood for 
the burnt offering. He was thinking all the time that these logs would 
consume his son, his hope of seed. With these very sticks that he was 
picking up the boy would be burned. In such a terrible case should he not 
take time to think it over? Could he not tell Sarah? With what inner 
tears he suffered! He girt the ass and was so absorbed he scarcely knew 
what he was doing. 

He took two servants and Isaac his son. In that moment everything 
died in him: Sarah, his family, his home, Isaac. This is what it is to sit in 
sackcloth and ashes. If he had known that this was only a trial, he would 
not have been tried. Such is the nature of our trials that while they last 
we cannot see to the end. "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his 
eyes, and saw the place afar off." What a battle he had endured in those 
three days! There Abraham left the servants and the ass, and he laid the 
wood upon Isaac and himself took the torch and the sacrificial knife. All 
the time he was thinking, "Isaac, if you knew, if your mother knew that 
you are to be sacrificed." "And they went both of them together." The 
whole world does not know what here took place. They two walked 
together. Who? The father and the dearest son die one not knowing what 
was in store but ready to obey, the other certain that he must leave his 
son in ashes. Then said Isaac, "My father." And he said, "Yes, my son." 
And Isaac said, "Father, here is the fire and here the wood, but where is 
the lamb?" He called him father and was solicitous test he had overlooked 
something, and Abraham said, "God will himself provide a lamb, my 

When they were come to the mount, Abraham built the altar and 
laid on the wood, and then he was forced to tell Isaac. The boy was 
stupefied. He must have protested, "Have you forgotten: I am the son 
of Sarah by a miracle in her age, that I was promised and that through me 
you are to be the father of a great nation?" And Abraham must have 
answered that God would fulfill his promise even out of ashes. Then 
Abraham bound him and laid him upon the wood. The father raised his 
knife. The boy bared his throat. If God had slept an instant, the lad 
would have been dead. I could not have watched. I am not able in my 
thoughts to follow. The lad was as a sheep for the slaughter. Never in 



history was there such obedience, save only in Christ. But God was watch- 
ing, and all the angels. The father raised his knife; the boy did not 
wince. The angel cried, "Abraham, Abraham!" See how divine majesty 
is at hand in the hour of death. We say, "In the midst of life we die." 
God answers, "Nay, in the midst of death we live." 

Luther once read this story for family devotions. When he had 
finished, Katie said, "I do not believe it, God would not have treated 
his son like that." 

"But, Katie," answered Luther, "he did," 

Hear Luther also as he describes the passion of Christ. The narrative 
is placed on a most human level. We are reminded that the death of 
Christ was of all the most terrible because it was an execution. This 
means death at a known moment for one who is fully aware of what is 
involved. In old age the angel of death often muffles his wings and 
permits us to slip peacefully away. Jesus went to his death in full pos- 
session of his faculties. He suffered even more than did the malefactors. 
A robber was simply crucified, not at the same time reviled. To Christ 
were spoken words of raillery, "If you are the Son of God, come 
down." As if to say, "God is just. He would not suffer an innocent man 
to die upon a cross." Christ at this point was simply a man, and it was 
for him as it is for me when the Devil comes and says, "You are mine." 
After the reviling of Christ; the sun was darkened and the earth 
trembled. If a troubled conscience shudders at the rustling of a wind- 
blown leaf, how much more terrible must it have been when the sun 
was blotted out and the earth was shaken, Christ was driven to a cry 
of desperation. The words are recorded in the original tongue that 
we may sense the stark desolation: Eli, Eli, lama sab&chthtmi? "My 
God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But note this, the prayer 
of the forsaken began, "My God." The cry of despair was a confession 
of faith. 

What wonder then that Luther, in the year of his deepest depression, 
composed these lines: 

A mighty bulwark is our God 
A doughty ward and weapon* 






He helps us clear from every rod 
By which we now are smitten. 

Still our ancient foe 

Girds him to strike a blow. 

Might and guile his gear. 

His armor striketh fear. 
On earth is not his equal. 

By our own strength is nothing won. 

We court at once disaster. 
There fights for us the Champion 

Whom God has named our Master. 
Would you know his name? 
Jesus Christ the same 
Lord Sabaoth is he. 



NTo other God can. be. 

The field is his to hold it. 

And though the fiends on every hand 

"Were threatening to devovir us, 
"We "would not waver froni oxir stand. 

They cannot overpo\ver tis. 
This ^vorld's prince may rave. 
However he behave, 
tie can do no ill. 
God's truth abideth still. 

One little -word shall fell him. 

That \vord they never can dismay. 

However mxich they batter, 
For God himself is in the fray 

-A^nd nothing else can matter. 
Then let them take oxir life., 
Goods, honor, children, wife. 
"We will let all go, 
They shall not concjuer so-, 

For God \vill \vm the battle, 



HE LAST sixteen years of Luther's life, from the 
Augsburg Confession in 1530 to his death in 
1546, are commonly treated more cursorily 
by biographers than the earlier period, if in- 
deed they are not omitted altogether. There 
is a measure of justification for this compara- 
tive neglect because the last quarter of Luther's 
life was neither determinative for his ideas 
nor crucial for his achievements. His own verdict in 1531 was more 
than a grim jest, namely, "Should the papists by their devouring, 
biting, tearing help me to put off this sinful carcass and should the 
Lord not wish this time to deliver me as he has so often done before, 
then may he be praised and thanked. I have lived long enough. Not 
until I am gone will they feel Luther's full weight." He was right; 
his ideas were matured; his church was established; his associates 
could carry on, as indeed in the public sphere they were compelled 
to do because for the remainder of his life he was under the ban of 
Church and state. 


This exile from the public scene chafed him the more because the 
conflicts and the labors of the dramatic years had impaired his health 
and made him prematurely an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, 
unrestrained, and at times positively coarse. This is no doubt another 
reason why biographers prefer to be brief in dealing with this period. 
There are several incidents over which one would rather draw the 



veil, but precisely because they are so often exploited to his discredit 
they are not to be left unrecorded. The most notorious was his 
attitude toward the bigamy of the landgrave, Philip of Hesse. This 
prince had been given in marriage with no regard to his own affec- 
tionsthat is, for purely political reasons at the age of nineteen 
to the daughter of Duke George. Philip, unable to combine romance 
with marriage, found his satisfaction promiscuously on the outside. 
After his conversion his conscience so troubled him that he dared not 
present himself at the Lord's Table. He believed that if he could 
have one partner to whom he was genuinely attached he would be 
able to keep himself within the bounds of matrimony. There were 
several ways in which his difficulty could have been solved. If he 
had remained a Catholic, he might have been able to secure an 
annulment on the grounds of some defect in the marriage; but since 
he had become a Lutheran, he could expect no consideration from 
the pope. Nor would Luther permit recourse to the Catholic device. 
A second solution would have been divorce and remarriage. A great 
many Protestant bodies in the present day would countenance this 
method, particularly since Philip had been subjected in his youth 
to a loveless match. But Luther at this point interpreted the Gospels 
rigidly and held to the word of Christ as reported by Matthew that 
divorce is permissible only for adultery. But Luther did feel that 
there should be some remedy, and he discovered it by a reversion 
to the mores of the Old Testament patriarchs, who had practiced 
bigamy and even polygamy without any manifestation of divine dis- 
pleasure. Philip was given the assurance that he might in good con- 
science take a second wife. Since, however, to do so would be against 
the law of the land, he should keep the union a secret. This the new 
bride's mother declined to do; and then Luther counseled a lie on the 
ground that his advice had been given as in the confessional, and to 
guard the secrets of the confessional a He is justified. But the secret 
was out, and the disavowal was ineffective. Luther's final comment 
was that if anyone thereafter should practice bigamy, let the Devil 
give him a bath in the abyss of hell 



The whole episode had disastrous political consequences for the 
Protestant movement because Philip, in order to secure pardon from 
the emperor, had to dissociate himself from a military alliance with 
the Protestants. The scene of Philip abjectly seeking grace from His 
Imperial Majesty has a certain irony because Charles deposited 
illegitimate children all over Europe, whom the pope legitimatized 
in order that they might occupy high offices of state. Luther's solution 
of the problem can be called only a pitiable subterfuge. He should 
first have directed his attack against the evil system of degrading 
marriage to the level of a political convenience, and he might well 
have adopted the later Protestant solution of divorce. 


The second development of those later years was a hardening 
toward sectaries, notably the Anabaptists. Their growth constituted 
a very real problem to the territorial church, since despite the decree 
of death visited upon them at the Diet of Speyer in 1529 with the 
concurrence of the Evangelicals, the intrepidity and irreproachable 
lives of the martyrs had enlisted converts to the point of threatening 
to depopulate the established churches. Philip of Hesse observed more 
improvement of life among the sectaries than among the Lutherans, 
and a Lutheran minister who wrote against the Anabaptists testified 
that they went in among the poor, appeared very lowly, prayed 
much, read from the Gospel, talked especially about the outward 
life and good works, about helping the neighbor, giving and lending, 
holding goods in common, exercising authority over none, and 
living with all as brothers and sisters. Such were the people executed 
by Elector John in Saxony. But the blood of the martyrs proved 
again to be the seed of the church. 

Luther was very much distraught over the whole matter. In 1527 
he wrote with regard to the Anabaptists: 

It is not right, and I am deeply troubled that the poor people are so 
pitifully put to death, burned, and cruelly slain. Let everyone believe 
what he likes. If he is wrong, he will have punishment enough in hell 



fire. Unless there is sedition, one should oppose them with Scripture and 
God's Word, With fire you won't get anywhere. 

This obviously did not mean, however, that Luther considered one 
faith as good as another. Most emphatically he believed that the 
wrong faith would entail hell-fire; and although the true faith cannot 


be created by coercion, it can be relieved of impediments. The 
magistrate certainly should not suffer the faith to be blasphemed* 
In 1530 Luther advanced the view that two offenses should be 
penalized even with death, namely sedition and blasphemy. The 
emphasis was thus shifted from incorrect belief to its public mani- 
festation by word and deed. This was, however, no great gain for 
liberty, because Luther construed mere abstention from public office 
and military service as sedition and a rejection of an article of the 
Apostles* Creed as blasphemy. 

In a memorandum of 1531, composed by Melanehthon and signed 
by Luther, a rejection of the ministerial office was described as in- 
sufferable blasphemy, and the disintegration of the Church as sedi- 
tion against the ecclesiastical order. In a memorandum of 1536, 



again composed by Melanchthon and signed by Luther, the distinction 
between the peaceful and the revolutionary Anabaptists was ob- 
literated. Philip of Hesse had asked several cities and universities 
for advice as to what he should do with some thirty Anabaptists 
whom he was holding under arrest. He had steadfastly refused to 
inflict the death penalty and had resorted to no more than banish- 
ment. But this was ineffective because the Anabaptists argued that 
the earth is the Lord's and refused to stay away. Of all the replies 
which Philip received those from the Lutherans were the most 
severe. Melanchthon this time argued that even the passive action 
of the Anabaptists in rejecting government, oaths, private property, 
and marriages outside of the faith was itself disruptive of the civil 
order and therefore seditious. The Anabaptist protest against the 
punishment of blasphemy was itself blasphemy. The discontinuance 
of infant baptism would produce a heathen society and separation 
from the Church, and the formation of sects was an offense against 

Luther may not have been too happy about signing these memo- 
randa. At any rate he appended postscripts to each. To the first he 
said, "I assent. Although it seems cruel to punish them with the 
sword, it is crueler that they condemn the ministry of the Word and 
have no well-grounded doctrine and suppress the true and in this 
way seek to subvert the civil order." Luther's addition to the second 
document was a plea that severity be tempered with mercy. In 1540 
he is reported in his Table Talk to have returned to the position of 
Philip of Hesse that only seditious Anabaptists should be executed; 
the others should be merely banished. But Luther passed by many an 
opportunity to speak a word for those who with joy gave them- 
selves as sheep for the slaughter. One would have thought that he 
might have been moved by the case of Fritz Erbe, who died at the 
Wartburg after sixteen years of incarceration. As to the effectiveness 
of such severity Luther might have pondered had he learned that the 
steadfastness of Erbe had converted one half of the populace of 
Eisenach to Anabaptism. 



For the understanding of Luther's position one must bear in mind 
that Anabaptism was not in every instance socially innocuous. The 
year in which Luther signed the memorandum counseling death even 
for the peaceful Anabaptists was the year in which a group of them 
ceased to be peaceful. Goaded by ten years of incessant persecution, 
bands of fanatics in 1536 received a revelation from the Lord that they 
should no more be as sheep for the slaughter but rather as the angel 
with the sickle to reap the harvest. By forcible measures they took 
over the city of Miinster in Westphalia and there inaugurated the 
reign of the saints, of which Thomas Mtimzer had dreamed. Catholics 
and Protestants alike conjoined to suppress the reign of the new 
Daniels and Elijahs. The whole episode did incalculable damage to 
the reputation of the Anabaptists, who before and after were peace- 
able folk. But this one instance of rebellion engendered the fear that 
sheep's clothing concealed wolves who might better be dealt with 
before they threw off the disguise. In Luther's case it should further 
be remembered that the leading Anabaptist in Thuringia was Mclchior 
Rink, and he had been with Thomas Miinr/xT at the battle of 
Frankenhausen, Yet when all of these attenuating considerations 
are adduced, one cannot forget that Mclanchthon's memorandum 
justified the eradication of the peaceful, not because they were 
incipient and clandestine revolutionaries, but on the ground that even 
a peaceful renunciation of the state itself constituted sedition. 

The other point to remember alike in the case of Luther and 
Meianchthon is that they were quite as much convinced as was the 
church of the inquisition that the truth of God can be known, and 
being known lays supreme obligations upon mankind to preserve 
it unsullied. The Anabaptists were regarded as the corrupters of souls, 
Luther's leniency toward them is the more to be remarked than his 
severity. He did insist to the end that faith is not to be forced, that in 
private a man may believe what he will, that only open revolt or 
public attack on the orthodox teaching should be penalizedin his 
own words, that only sedition and blasphemy rather than heresy 
should be subject to constraint, 



Another dissenting group to attract Luther's concern was the 
Jews. He had early believed that they are a stiff-necked people to 
have rejected Christ, but contemporary Jews could not be blamed 
for the sins of their fathers and might readily be excused for their 
rejection of Christianity by reason of the corruptions of the papacy. 
He said: 

If I were a Jew, I would suffer the rack ten times before I would go 
over to the pope. 

The papists have so demeaned themselves that a good Christian would 
rather be a Jew than one of them, and a Jew would rather be a sow than 
a Christian. 

What good can we do the Jews when we constrain them, malign them, 
and hate them as dogs? When we deny them work and force them to 
usury, how can that help? We should use toward the Jews not the 
pope's but Christ's law of love. If some are stiff-necked, what does that 
matter? We are not all good Christians. 

Luther was sanguine that his own reform, by eliminating the abuses 
of the papacy, would accomplish the conversion of the Jews. But the 
converts were few and unstable. When he endeavored to proselytize 
some rabbis, they undertook in return to make a Jew of him. The 
rumor that a Jew had been suborned by the papists to murder him 
was not received with complete incredulity. In Luther's latter days, 
when he was often sorely frayed, news came that in Moravia, Chris- 
tians were being induced to Judaize. Then he came out with a vulgar 
blast in which he recommended that all the Jews be deported to 
Palestine. Failing that, they should be forbidden to practice usury, 
should be compelled to earn their living on the land, their synagogues 
should be burned, and their books including the Bible should be taken 
away from them. 

One could wish that Luther had died before ever this tract was 
written. Yet one must be clear as to what he was recommending 
and why. His position was entirely religious and in no respect racial. 
The supreme sin for him was the persistent rejection of God's 



revelation of himself in Christ. The centuries of Jewish suffering 
were themselves a mark of the divine displeasure. The territorial 
principle should be applied to the Jews. They should be compelled 
to leave and go to a land of their own. This was a program of enforced 
Zionism. But if it were not feasible, then Luther would recommend 
that the Jews be compelled to live from the soil. He was unwittingly 
proposing a return to the condition of the early Middle Ages, when 
the Jews had been in agriculture. Forced off the land, they had gone 
into commerce and, having been expelled from commerce, into money 
lending. Luther wished to reverse the process and thereby inadvertent- 
ly would accord the Jews a more secure position than they enjoyed 
in his day. The burning of the synagogues and the confiscation of the 
books was, however, a revival of the worst features of Pfefferkorn's 
program. One other word must be added: if similar tracts did not 
appear in England, France, and Spain in Luther's day, it was because 
the Jews had already been completely expelled from these countries, 
Germany, disorganized in this as in so many other respects, expelled 
the Jews from certain localities and tolerated them in others, such as 
Frankfurt and Worms. The irony of the situation was that Luther 
justified himself by appealing to the ire of Jehovah against those who 
go awhoring after other gods. Luther would not have listened to 
any impugning of the validity of this picture of God, but he might 
have recalled that Scripture itself discountenances human imitation 
of the divine vengeance. 


The third group toward whom Luther became more bitter was the 
papists. His railing against the pope became perhaps the more vitu- 
perative because there was so little else that could be done. Another 
public appearance such as that at Worms, where an ampler confession 
could be made, was denied Luther, and the martyrdom which came 
to others also passed him by. He compensated by hurling vitriol 
Toward the very end of his life he issued an illustrated tract with 
outrageously vulgar cartoons. In all of this he was utterly unre- 



The case was different in his attitude toward the emperor. Here 
Luther entertained his last great illusion* Even in 1531 he lauded 
Charles for his previous clemency and could not be persuaded that 
the emperor would yield to the goading of the papists. But should 
he do so and should he take up arms to suppress the gospel, then 






his subjects should do no more than refuse to serve under his ban- 
ners, and for the rest should leave the outcome to the Lord, who 
delivered Lot from Sodom. Should God not intervene to preserve 
his own, yet would he be the Lord God, and under no circumstances 
should subjects take up arms against the powers ordained. The next 
year, however, Luther was brought to observe that the word used 
by the apostle Paul, namely "powers," is in the plural, and that al- 
though the common man may not take the sword which is committed 
only to the "power," yet one power may legitimately exercise a 
check even by the sword upon another. In other words, one depart- 



merit of the government may employ force to restrain the injustice 
of another. The Holy Roman Empire \vas a constitutional monarchy, 
and the emperor had sworn at his coronation that no German subject 
should be outlawed unheard and uncondemncd. Although this clause 
had not been invoked to protect a monk accused of heresy, yet when 
princes and electors came to be involved the case was altered. 
If Charles were faithless to that oath, then he might be resisted even 
in arms by the lower magistrates. The formula thus suggested to 
Luther by the jurists was destined to have a very wide and extended 
vogue. The Lutherans employed it only until they gained legal recog- 
nition in 1555. Thereafter the Calvmists took up the slogan and 
equated the lower magistrates with the lesser nobility in France. 
Subsequently the Puritans in England made the same identification 
with Parliament, Later historians are so accustomed to regard Luther- 
anism as politically subservient and Calvinism as intransigent that 
they would do well to recall the origin of this doctrine on Lutheran 

But it was not the invention of Luther, even though he accepted 
its validity, never, however, without a measure of misgiving and such 
qualification as to make one uncertain whether his conditions were 
ever actually fulfilled. The emperor, he felt, might be forcibly resisted, 
not in case he should reintroduce the mass, but only in case he en- 
deavored to force the Lutherans to attend the inas& This the emperor 
did only after Luther's death when Philip of Hesse was captured 
and required to be present at the celebration, Whether in that instance 
Luther would have felt the time had come for the legitimate use of 
the sword we shall never know. 1 Ic was always ready to disobey, 
but exceedingly loath to raise a hand against the Lord's anointed. 

Such were the public questions which engaged the later years, but 
in none of them could Luther do much more than write a memoran- 
dum* He must devote his labors to more restricted tasks, and that he 
did by preference. "A cow,*' said he, "docs not get to heaven by giving 
milk, but that is what she is made for/' and by the same token he 
would say that Martin Luther by his ministry could not settle the 



fate of Europe, but for the ministry he was made. To all the obli- 
gations of university and parish he gave himself unremittingly. To 
the end he was preaching, lecturing, counseling, and writing. How- 
ever much the superb defiance of the earlier days might degenerate 
into the peevishness of one racked by disease, labor, and discourage- 
ment, yet a case of genuine need would always restore his sense of 
proportion and bring him into the breach. The closing events of 
his life are an example. He was in such a panic of disgust because the 
girls at Wittenberg were wearing low necks that he left home de- 
claring that he would not return. His physician brought him back. 
Then came a request from the counts of Mansfeld for a mediator 
in a dispute. Melanchthon was too sick to go. Luther was too sick 
to live. He went, reconciled the 
counts, and died on the way 

Luther's later years are, how- 
ever, by no means to be written 
off as the sputterings of a dying 
flame. If in his polemical tracts 
he was at times savage and 
coarse, in the works which con- 
stitute the real marrow of his 
life's endeavor he grew con- 
stantly in maturity and artistic 
creativity. The biblical transla- 
tion was improved to the very 
end. The sermons and the bibli- 
cal commentaries reached su- 
perb heights. The delineation 
of the sacrifice of Isaac, already 
quoted, comes from the year 
1545. Some of the passages 

cited throughout this book to illustrate Luther's religious and ethical 
principles are also from the later period. 




When one comes to take the measure of the man, there are three 
areas which naturally suggest themselves. The first is his own Ger- 
many. He called himself the German prophet, saying that against 
the papist asses he must assume so presumptuous a title, and he ad- 
dressed himself to his beloved Germans. The claim is frequent that 
no man did so much to fashion the character of the German people. 
Their indiff erence to politics and their passion for music were already 
present in him. Their language was so far fashioned by his hand 
that the extent of their indebtedness is difficult to recognize. If a 
German is asked whether a passage of Luther's Bible is not remark- 
able, he may answer that this is precisely the way in which any 
German would speak. But the reason is simply that every German has 
been reared on Luther's version. The influence of the man on his 
people was deepest in the home. In fact the home was the only sphere 
of life which the Reformation profoundly affected. Economics went 
the way of capitalism and politics the way of absolutism. But the 
home took on that quality of affectionate and godly patriarchalism 
which Luther had set as the pattern in his own household. The most 
profound impact of Luther on his people was in their religion. His 
sermons were read to the congregations, his liturgy was sung, his 
catechism was rehearsed by the father with the household, his Bible 
cheered the fainthearted and consoled the dying. If no Englishman 
occupies a similar place in the religious life of his people, it is because 
no Englishman had anything like Luther's range. The Bible trans- 
lation in England was the work of Tyndale, the prayer book of 
Cranmer t the catechism of the Westminster divines, The sermonic 
style stemmed from Latimer; the hymnbook came from Watts, 
And not all of these lived in one century, Luther did the work of 
more than five men. And for sheer richness and exuberance of vocabu- 
lary and mastery of style he is to be compared only with Shakespeare. 
The Germans naturally claim such a German for themselves. 
Yet when one begins to look over the centuries for those whom one 
would most naturally compare with this man, not a single one of his 



stature proves to be a German. In fact a German historian has said 
that in the course of three hundred years only one German ever 
really understood Luther, and that one was Johann Sebastian Bach. 
If one would discover parallels to Luther as the wrestler with the 
Lord, then one must turn to Paul the Jew, Augustine the Latin, Pascal 
the Frenchman, Kierkegaard the Dane, Unamuno the Spaniard, 
Dostoevski the Russian, Bunyan the Englishman, and Edwards the 

And that is why in the second great area, that of the Church, 
Luther's influence extends so far beyond his own land. Lutheranism 
took possession of Scandinavia and has an extensive following in the 
United States, and apart from that his movement gave the impetus 
which sometimes launched and sometimes helped to establish' the 
other varieties of Protestantism. They all stem in some measure from 
him. And what he did for his own people to a degree, he did also 
for others. His translation, for example, affected the English version. 
Tyndale's preface is taken from Luther. His liturgical reforms like- 
wise had an influence on the Book of Common Prayer. And even the 
Catholic Church owes much to him. Often it is said that had Luther 
never appeared, an Erasmian reform would have triumphed, or at any 
rate a reform after the Spanish model. All of this is of course con- 
jectural, but it is obvious that the Catholic Church received a tre- 
mendous shock from the Lutheran Reformation and a terrific urge 
to reform after its own pattern. 

The third area is of all the most important and the only one which 
to Luther mattered much, and that is the area of religion. Here it is 
that he must be judged. In his religion he was a Hebrew, not a Greek 
fancying gods and goddesses disporting themselves about some limpid 
pool or banqueting upon Olympus. The God of Luther, as of Moses, 
was the God who inhabits the storm clouds and rides on the wings of 
the wind. At his nod the earth trembles, and the people before him 
are as a drop in the bucket. He is a God of majesty and power, in- 
scrutable, terrifying, devastating, and consuming in his anger. Yet the 
All Terrible is the All Merciful too. "Like as a father pitieth his 



children, so the Lord , , . " But how shall we know this? In Christ, 
only in Christ. In the Lord of life, born in the squalor of a cow stall 
and dying as a malefactor under the desertion and the derision of 
men, crying unto God and receiving for answer only the trembling of 
the earth and the blinding of the sun, even by God forsaken, and in 
that hour taking to himself and annihilating our iniquity, trampling 
down the hosts of hell and disclosing within the wrath of the All 
Terrible the love that will not let us go. No longer did Luther tremble 
at the rustling of a wind-blown leaf, and instead of calling upon St. 
Anne he declared himself able to laugh at thunder and jagged bolts 
from out the storm. This was what enabled him to utter such words 
as these: "Here 1 stand* I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen." 




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ADAleander Depeschen (Kalkoff, ed.) 


ARGArchiv fur Reformations geschichte 

Bd Buchwald, Luthers Predigten 

BDFBriefe, Depeschen und Berichte 

(see Kalkoff) 
B^el-Bible in WA 
BR-Brief<wechsel in WA 
CR Corpus reformatorum 
Dok (JQDokumente zum Ablassstreit 

von mi (Walther Koehler, ed., 1902) 
Dok (S)Dokumente zu Luthers En- 

twicklung (Otto Scheel, ed., 1929) 
EAErlangen Ausgabe 
EEErasmi epistolae 
EpEpistolae Ulrichi Huttenis 
JLGJahrbuch der Luthergesellschaft 

LJ Luther Jahrbuch 

QFRGQuellen und Forschungen zur 

Reformations geschichte 
ova Opera varii argumenti in EA 
RA Deutsche Reichstagsakten 

SVRG-Schriften des Vereins fur Refor- 

TR-Tischreden in WA 

VLGVierteljahrschrift der Luther- 

W Walch ed. of Luther's works 
WA Weimar Ausgabe, ordinarily re- 
ferred to simply by volume and page 

ZHTZeitschrift fur die historische 

ZKG-Zeitschrift fur Kirchengeschlchte 

ZSTZeitschrift fur systematische The- 

For full titles see the bibliography. 



23 21 TR, 3566 A (1537) 

23 25 TR, 1559 (1532) 

23 29 TR, 5571 (1543) 

24 12 XXXVIII, 338 

25 14 Scheel, 1, 290, n. 13 

26 12 Boehmer, JL, p. 24 

27 9 TR, 3841 

28 9 TR, 3593, p. 439 

29 23 Gerke, TLBL, XI, 320 

30 9 Sullen, p. XXV 

30 24 Dok (S), Nos. 346, 358, 381 

32 7 Coulton, 1, 92 

32 15 Coulton, III, 17 

33 13 Dok (S), No, 371 


33 22 Scheel, 1, 95, n. 65 

34 3 Buchwald, LL, p. 6 

34 14 Dok (S), under Eintritt 

35 18 Scheel, 1, 261-62 


37 3 Do (S), No. 50 

38 6 Scheel, II, 35-36 

38 17 Ibid., II, 62 

39 2 Dok (S),No. 35 
39 29 Ibid., Nos. 24, 477 
41 19 Ibid., under Primitz 
41 29 Ibid., No. 201 

44 5 Ibid., Nos. 286, 303, 343, 
508, 536 




45 19 

45 22 

45 23 

45 25 

45 27 

45 28 

45 33 

46 8 

46 24 

47 35 

48 4 

48 29 

49 16 

50 2 
50 IB 

50 22 

51 5 
51 12 

52 16 

53 15 

54 17 
54 18 
54 26 

54 32 

55 11 
55 12 
55 17 
55 21 

55 31 

56 24 

57 30 

58 12 

58 14 

59 10 
59 10 

59 21 

59 33 

62 13 

62 20 

63 30 

64 6 
64 7 

Ibid., No. 418 

Ibid., No. 176 

Ibid., No. 346 

Ibid., No. 180 

Ibid., No. 90 

/Mi, No. 470 


Schecl, II, 209 

X, 3, 244 

Paulus, Ablass, 111, 451 

TR, 4H29 

Schecl, II, 523-26 

Boehmcr, Rowfahrt 

Dok (S), No. 479 

TR, 3478 

TR, 6453 

Dok (S), No. 527 

Schecl, II, 334 

CHAP. Ill 

TR, Nos. 3642, 22 10/>, 2880a 

Dok (S), No. 461 

Ibid- No. 52 

Ibid., No. 84 

/Mi, Nos, 199, 241 

Ibid., No. 487 

XXIV, 94 

XIX, 209 

XXIV, 96 

VI, 159-69 
Lev, 26:36 
Jacobs edL, I, 76-78 

TR, 6561 (German) zz #, 

1340 (Latin) 
Dok (S), No. 362 
/Mi, No. 18 
/Mi, No. 460 
/Mi, Nos. 346, 358 
/Mi, No. 62 
Ibid., No, 418 
XVIII, 719 
LIV, 185; XIV, 132; II, 688; 

TR, 2654*; Schecl, II, 307- 

9; Dok (S), Nos, 275, 207 
Dok (S), Nos. 225, 256, 262 
Dok (S), Nos. 174, 230, 444, 

1, 557 
Vogelsang, ACh, 24; X f 3, 

75; XXVII, 108-10 
IV, 243 

VII, 364 
LV1, 381 



64 8 LVI, 392 

65 27 LIV, 185 
65 34 XXXII, 328 

67 7 XXXV, 421-22 


68 26 Boehmcr, //-, p. 132 

69 13 flJR, 28 

71 17 Kalkoff, A Mass 

71 33 Dok (K), No. 30, pp. 94-95 

71 34 Koestlin-Kawerau, 1, 142 

74 21 fiebhardt, Groiw/ww, p. 85 

75 35 Schuhc, /*Vtftft'r, p. 117 

77 7 Dok (K), No. 31 

78 34 Ibid., No. 32 and p. 132, and 

Paulus, Tctzcl 

79 29 Raynald, Amahs, XX, 160 
83 11 From Kochicr, U 9$ Thesen 


85 13 BR, 48 
85 17 77*, 263 

85 18 CSicsslcr. KG, III, 38, ru 1 

86 2 If, XV, No. 144 
86 16 m, 64 

86 20 #R, 72 

86 24 /*, 75 

86 26 I, 350-51 

86 30 BK, No. 83, p, 186, n. 22; 
Kalkoif, F, 47; Strack, 
6V/tosc*r/jc//i5 } 132 

86 34 BK> 75 

87 6 Ikatus Rhcnamxs, BR, No. 

75, p. 10H 

87 14 /?K, 75; cf. Bauer 
87 22 Dak (K), p. 132 

87 26 M, 64 

88 13 I, 526 
8B 19 1, 571 

HH 35 8R, 92 and 1, 201 

89 II I, 635-45; Kawerau, Tkesm 


89 28 ow, I, 341-46 

90 9 1, 650, 647, 677 t 657, 685 

90 18 MiiUtfr, L$ row* Prvzess 

91 2 RA, II, 461 

91 27 w, II, 349-50 

9! 34 TR, 266Ha 

91 35 ##,97 

92 17 IK, XV, No. 174 

92 35 /Mi, No, 166, and BR, 112 

93 7 0va, II, 354-58 



93 12 BR, 105 

93 16 Archivio star, ital., XXTV 
(1876), 23 

93 32 ova, II, 352-53; cf. Kolde, 

ZKG, II, 472-80 

94 2 Kalkoff, F, 59 

95 3 BR, 99 

95 13 Do* (S), No. 10 

96 11 BR, 99-110; Ada Aug. WA, 


96 13 BR, 100 

96 21 BR, 99 

96 25 W, XV, 208 

96 27 Koestlin-Kawerau, 211 

96 33 TR, 225, 409 

96 35 II, 17; BR, 1, 242 

97 22 II, 27-33 

97 24 BR, I, 242; II, 17 

97 27 TR, 5349, p. 78 

97 31 BR, 105 

98 3 BR, 110 

98 24 II, 18-22 = ova, 1, 386-92 

98 35 II, 39-40 

99 4 BR, 124 

99 30 W, XV, No. 247 
100 2 BR, 110 = I, 245 
100 8 BR, 114 

100 11 TR, 5349, p. 79 

100 15 BR, 112 

100 22 BR, 119 

100 24 BR, 118 

100 27 BR, 116 

100 28 TR, 1203 

100 30 BR, 121, p. 271 

101 24 BR, I, 250 

101 28 BR, 124 


102 11 II, 447 

102 21 ova, II, 423-32 
104 7 Kalkoff, F, 184-87 

104 19 W, XV, No. 311 

104 24 Smith, Corr., No. 108 

104 28 BR, 205, cf. 196; TR, 156; 
TR, 3413 

104 31 W, XV, Nos, 249-53 

105 2 BR, 152 
105 3 BR, 196 

105 6 W, XIV, p. 445 
105 9 BR, 140 

105 12 RA, I, 824; BR, No. 122, 
p. 274 


105 14 BR, 204 

105 16 BR, 134, 136 

105 19 BR, 140 

105 26 Smith, Corr., I, 570 

106 2 W, XV, Nos. 284, 297-99, 

302, 306-8, 321-27 

106 23 BR, 82, 249 

106 30 TR, 22630 

107 34 BR, 151 

108 4 W, XVIII, No. 32 
108 15 II, 180-239 

108 29 W, XV, 393 

108 32 BR, 167 

109 6 BR, 141 
109 12 BR, 161 

111 24 W, XV, Nos. 392, 396 

111 26 BR, I, 442, n. 9 

111 28 W, XV, No. 396 

112 1 Ibid., No. 392, cf. No. 396 

and BR, I, 442, n. 9 

112 13 W, XV, Nos. 390, 392 

112 24 W, XV, Nos. 395, 393 

112 27 BR, I, pp. 477, 498 

112 30 BR, 187; W, XV, No. 396 

112 31 Ibid., No. 392 

112 34 BR, I, 428-30 

113 19 W, XV, p. 1201; Smith, 

Corr., I, 262; Loescher, 
Analecta, III, 248 

114 6 II, 400 
114 15 II, 313-14 
114 21 II, 316 

114 35 Decret., pt. I, dist. 22, .2; 

dist. 21, .21 

115 10 II, 265, 276, 279, 285; BR, I, 

p. 422; Koehler, LKG 

115 19 11,275 

116 2 Ibid., 279, 287 

116 3 W, XV, No. 392, p. 1207 

117 1 II, 280-308 

117 4 II, 400; BR, I, 471 

117 5 II, 649; BR, I, 391 

117 7 II, 427 

117 8 BR, No. 192, p. 472 

117 11 II, 282 

117 17 W, XV, p. 1318 

117 21 II, 283 

117 24 II, 311 

117 27 II, 406 

117 33 II, 324 

119 1 BR, I, 422 

119 12 II, 404 

119 18 W, XV, p. 1199 








Ibid., p. 1215 



lbid.> 593 



BR, I, 451 



Sanuto, Dictrii, XXVIII, col. 



BR, 185, 1H6 




11, 702 



BR, 122 



BR, 254 



Kaikoff, 7.KQ, XXV, 115, 

n. 2; Schubert, 



220, n. 2 



BR, 146^ 



CKW, IV, 310-14 = 
E Op., 322 




Furrier, Xw/wg//, 3 i > 



MVI, l\\ 2H3 



BR, 213 



OTW, IV, 312 s 




EC cuts Jjcdtil&tits 

E Op., 325 



II, 449 
BR, 163 = ER> 932 



<ww, IV, 269, 290, 
or<i, \\ 10-12 




BR, 50 



Ps, 91:21, 24 



Op,, IV, 474 



BR, 295 



Op., I, 870 



VI, 347 




Op> VI, 64 D-K 
AMR. Werfai 205-6 
Spcnglcr, Schur&wdv 



VII, 645-46 
BR, 333, p. 189 



Op., IV, 459-60 

ClIAl*. IX 



ER, Nos. 939, 967, 1033, 1167 



BR, 310 



Panofsky, Dwrcr, I, 398 99 
Op., IV, 262-64 
Op, 1, 167 
I, 378-79 
BK, 360 
Schadcs II, 1-59 




Kalkntf, XKG, XXV, 129-30 
Iklnn, No. 3 
// No. 4 
Schubert, Spcn^cr^ 241 
KE, No. 1167, p. 409 



BR, 281 
BR, 298 



Schubert, SptM$lc\ 

r, 232, 241 


BR, 287 



Wictlcnuuin, jKr/r, 






Schubert, r^r^jre 

ibid**, 21 



BR\ 323 
BR, 282 



H f , XV, No. 466 
BR, 340, 348, *51, 




BR, 368 



If, XV, No, 340 



Wicdcniitnn, /CrX 1 , 





KnlkofT, Anfiwxc 



Hcutus Rhenaiuis, 

BR, No. 



VI, 497-573 

194; Frtctjuicr, 




KK, 1203 

172-73; cf. /JO, 

17; jR/l, II, 



VI, 563-64 







W> XV, No, 238, p. 640; 
cf. BR, 110, p. 237 
Koehler, /,, 50-52 
Rornkamm, J-gM', Chap. V 
X 3 1 





J7/imw O/?. t HI, 455-59 
BR, 341 
H', XV, No. 442, sec, 39-42 
BR, 351 




f%, .*, A 

VI, 521 



VI, 597-612 




III, 304; Scchcrg, I, 131 Ml 
0w, IV, 172-85 




VII, 42-49 
MM., 125 



VI, 181-95 



Urid*) 135 



Kolde, ZKQ, II, 460-70 



MM., 183 



BR, 2H5 



MM., lH4-85j BR 

, 361; ; 



Kalkof , ZKG, XXV, 589-91 

XV, No. 46 




166 13 VII, 161-82 

166 21 W,XV, No. 519 


167 16 RA, II, 90-94 

168 5 AD, 48 

168 28 Ep. 229, cf. Op. IV, 309-31; 

Ep. 233-34 

169 1 Kalkotf, WR, 213, n. 3 
169 7 AD, 182 

169 14 RA, II, 471 

169 19 Balan, Nos. 13, 32, 34, 52 

169 31 Ferguson, E Op., 334-35; cf. 

336-37, 352-61 

170 6 AD, p. 92 
170 10 Ep, 230 
170 11 Ep, 247 

170 15 W, XV, No. 526 and Balan, 

P- 18 

170 24 BR, 349; WA, VI, 477-80 

170 30 Spalatin, Ann., p. 29; Seck- 

endorf, I, 126; RA, II, 464, 

n. 1 

170 32 EE, 1166, p. 399 

172 3 W, XV, 1585 

172 9 RA, II, No. 61 

172 35 Balan, No. 34, pp. 85-86 

173 3 AD, p. 34 

173 5 Balan, No. 35 T p. 90 

173 10 RA, II, No. 62 

173 20 Ibid., No. 63 

174 9 BR, 365 

174 39 BR, 376 

175 4 AD, p. 36 

175 13 BR, 371, p. 254 

175 26 AD, pp. 35-36 

176 11 AD, pp. 30, 40, 55-57, 82 
176 22 Huttcn, Ep., 247, p. 63; 

Kalkoff, BDB, p. 6 

176 25 AD, p. 56 

177 2 Schade, II, 177 
177 4 RA, II, 476, n. 3 

177 14 AD, p. 169 

178 5 J&4, II, 496-505 
178 12 RA, II, No. 68 
178 15 AD, p. 73 

178 23 RA, II, No. 69 

178 28 Ibid., No. 72 

178 33 Ibid., No. 74 

179 2 AD, p. 101 
179 5 RA, II, No. 73 
179 14 BR, 389 

179 18 BR, 391 


179 25 BR, 395, 396 

179 28 BR, 395 

180 4 Hutteni Op., II, 52-53; cf. 

AD, pp. 183, 198 

180 23 RA, II, No. 66 

181 9 RA, II, No. 78 

181 11 Spalatin, Ann., p. 38; W. 

XV, No. 554 

181 15 Op., II, 62, 55 

181 19 W, XV, No. 557 

181 24 AD, p. 170 

183 4 RA, II, p. 851 

183 17 RA, II, pp. 548-49, 574 

183 27 Kalkoff, BDB, 52 

183 32 Ibid., Note 112; RA, II, No. 

209, p. 885 

184 16 AD, p. 152 

185 7 RA 9 II, pp. 551-55 
185 24 VII, 836-38 

185 33 RA, II, p. 555 

186 6 AD, p. 153; RA, p. 558 
186 9 Spalatin, Ann., 49-50 
186 10 RA, II, p. 867 

186 13 Spalatin, Ann., 50-51 

186 33 RA, II, pp. 595-96 

187 4 Ibid., II, p. 596, n. 3 

188 2 Op., II, 61 
188 3 AD, 158 

188 9 AD, 160; JR/4, II, No. 84 

188 29 RA, II, No. 86; pp. 617, 621 

188 33 Ibid., No. 85, pp. 603, 610 

188 35 RA, II, p. 631 

189 5 BR, 404, p. 325 

189 26 RA, II, No. 92 

190 8 AD, pp. 221-24 


191 9 Durer, Brief e, 121 

192 17 Clemen, Beitr'dge, III, 10-15; 

Bainton, Durer 

192 24 Kalkoff, Anfange, II, 22 

192 27 Kalkoff, Vermittlung, ARG, 

192 36 Durer, Briefe, 119-22 

193 23 BR, 408; TR, 5353 
193 30 VIII, 211 

193 32 TR, 6816, p. 209 

194 1 VIII, 412, 483; XXXVI, 476 
194 5 VIII, 139 

194 12 I Kings 19:4 

194 23 BR, 429 

194 28 BR, 407 

194 33 BR, 435 




195 2 BR, 429 

195 7 BR> 410, p. 338 

195 13 BR, 427 

195 15 BR> 409 

195 16 BR, 413, p. 348 

195 20 #K, 417 

195 25 BJR, Nos. 413, 418-20, 429, 


197 4 Tfl, Nos. 495, 1253, 542K, 


197 7 VIII, 139 

197 16 BR, 435 

198 16 BR> 442 
198 18 BR> 448 
200 10 VI, 441 

200 13 BR y 442, p. 408 

200 19 N. Miiller, U'fl, No. 102 

200 25 CR, 1, No. 184 

200 27 7*K, 444 

200 31 BR> 426 

200 33 N, Mullcr, WB, No. 31 

201 4 Ibid., No, 28 
201 14 1*R, 424, 428 
201 20 V1H 317 
201 27 VIII, 330 

201 33 VIII, 569 

202 14 VIII, 441-42 
202 20 VIII, 448 

202 33 BR, No. 424, p. 372 

203 6 N, Mullcr, If 'ft, 612 
203 17 K. Mullcr, J.K, 6 
203 26 /Wrf., p. 24 

203 29 N, Mullcr, 1KB, Nos. 25, 28 

204 36 CR, I, No. 150 

204 20 Frederick: Cfl, I, No. 145; 

N. Mullcr, in*, No. 56; 
Old Believers: N. Miller, 
Nos. 25, 44; F.vangeiicals: 
CR,t, No. 161 ;N. Miillcr, 
WB, No. 43 


205 H BR, 443 

205 14 N. Miillcr, WB, 159 
205 21 K. Mullcr, /,K, 27 

205 23 BK, 438 

206 1 Dan, 8:25 

206 3 VIH, 676-87 

207 9 Barge, Carlstadt, I, 357-61; 

N, Mullcr, H'fl, No. 73 
207 16 N, Mullcr, WB, No. 75; 
Barge, Carlstetdt, I, 379-86 
207 20 N. Mftlter, WB^ No, 72 









9 Carlsradt, Von Abtwmg 

17 Biirge, Karhtadt, I, 368-69 
26 CR, I, Nos, 170, 183; N, 

Miillcr, JP#, Nos. 63, 54, 
68, p. 160; BR, 450 
3H CR, I, No. 170 

3 CA\ 1, No. 183, col. 536 
11 BR, 450 

15 BR, 452 

32 Pallas, ARQ, V, 238-40 

4 //>*<*., Nos. 3, 4 

11 N. Miillcr, WB, No. 92 

18 1/wL, No. 97 

21 /?#, II, p. 462, n. 4 

29 Be/old, "Riickkchr," XKG, 

XX, 223-26 
31 ftK, 44S 
4 SK, 444 
M) M, 454 

22 M, 455 

^3 Kcsslcr, .9aWwM, 76-80 

^5 Bcatus Uhcnanus, BK, 303 

7 X, 3,47 

2^ //w/., pp. 25, 18-19 

25 BR, 47H 

35 Ale, No. 456,p.4$1;No.457 v 
p. 469 


26 ,R^, H, No. m 
7 M 1826 

2* 1 Cor. 3:11 
29 II, 5H6 

.M xxxvin, 53 
^ xix, 4% 

Am 17:28 

XXIII, M5-J7; Ps. U9:7-8 




















VII, 5H7; XV, 370 
XIX, V0 
XI, IV, 429 
XXVH, 4H2-H3 
XVIH, 626 
XMV, 429 
XXXI, I, 249 
XL, 2, *2WO 
Is;i. 9; 2 
XIX, 133 
UJ, 55-56 
Acts 16:?1 







XIX, 154 





TR, 4201 





TR, 5015 





XL, 1, 455 





XXVII, 154 





V, 550 





IX, 610 





XIX, 492 



BR, 424 





Dok (S), 672, 755; BR, 428, 





p. 383 
Bd, I, 99 





BR, 1593 



Bd, I, 88 



Ibid., I, 90 





Ibid., I, 249 



LVI, 304, 361 





IV, 324, 364 





LVI, 231 
II, 496 





Bd, II, 25 
VII, 53, 59-64 










TR, 2223 
TR, 2123 





TR, 5360 





VII, 575 





LII, 399-400 





XXXII, 292-94 





Bd, II, 518, 528; WA 9 VII, 








TR, 437 





XXX, 2, 570-75 





TR, 5252 





XV, 321 





II, 252 





XVIII, 389 





XXVIII, 525 





BR, 365 





XXIX, 355 





XL, 1, 292 





VI, 459 





XLI, 747 



II, 254-61 
Ibid., II, 261 





XIX, 625-26 





XLI, 746-47 





XXVIII, <599 





XVIII, 391 





VI, 267 





XVI, 474 





II, 268-69 



244 32 Pauls, 69; LII, 189; XXXVII, 


245 13 XXVIII, 360-61 ; Matthes, 143 

Bd, I, 147 
9 Bd, I, 555-56 
2 Bd, I, 572 


N. Miiller, WB, No. 25, pp. 


Kalkoff, Ablass, 85 
Ibid., 115-16 
BR, 558, 566 
BR, 572, 586, 678, 748 
BR, 648 
BR, 799 
Bainton, Development, 113- 


W, XV, No. 716 
Ibid^ No. 717 
Planitz, No. 121, p. 271 
Ibid., No. 153 
Ibid., No. 29 
BR, 956 
X, 2, 227 
BR, 914 

Smith, Corr., No. 737 
Op., IX, 1215-48 
XVIII, 719 
Ibid^ 758-59 
Ibid., 784-85 
BR, 626 

Op., X, 1251, 1257-58 
BR, 726 
XV, 392 
W, XX, Nos. 6, 7; XV, 391- 


XV, 394 
XVII, 1, 361-62 
XV, 199-200 
Ibid., 210-11 
BR, 754 

Boehmer-Kirn, No. 56 
Brandt, Muentzer, 148-63 
BR, 785 






292 27 BR, 3519 

265 18 BR, 797 
265 19 BR, IV, p. 2, n. 4 
265 25 Koehlcr, LZ, 146-47 
266 10 II Cor. 3:6 

292 29 BR, 3509 
292 33 TR, 2437 
293 3 Thonia 
293 6 BR, 1032 

266 11 John 6:63 
266 26 Koehlcr, LZ 9 111 
266 31 Ibid., 466 

293 7 TR, 146 
293 9 77*> 2458, 2397/> 
293 12 BR, 932 

267 3 Koehlcr, Gcistcswclt, 14 
267 6 Koehlcr, LZ, 175, 328 
274 24 XVIII, 291-334 
275 14 Franz, 242, 249-51 

293 15 BR, 1013 
293 17 BR, 1017 
293 19 TR, 2447 
293 22 BR, 1067 

278 3 Bochmcr-Kirn, 118, 124; 

293 26 TR, 3541 

Brandt, Mucntzer, 187-201 
278 12 Bochmcr-Kirn, 110 
280 16 XVIII, 358 

293 29 TR, HOI 
295 12 TR, 3298* 
296 37 7'R, Nos. 301, 397, 566, 613, 
1038, 1106, 1637, 2258*, 


2439, 2K49&, 28K9a-, 3627, 

286 10 BR, 426 
286 12 TR, 1654, 3177 
286 24 BR, 600 
287 2 Bcatus Rhenanus, BR, p. 319 
287 8 BR, 800 

3637*, 3901, 4351, 5378, 
5742, 5847, 6238, 6250 
298 9 TR, 2S6te 
29H 26 TR, 6725 
299 5 XX, 149 

287 18 BR, 857 
287 27 BR, 782 
288 11 BR, 890, 900 
288 17 BR, 860 

299 9 TR, 55 
299 14 TR, 6102 
299 1H 7V*, 3566 
299 32 XXX, 3, 236 

288 21 BR, 883 

300 1 XXIV, 518-21 

288 23 BR, 900 

300 24 XII, 106 

288 25 TR, 49 

300 26 XVII, 1, 24-25 

288 27 BR, 900 

300 31 X, 2, 296 

288 32 Boehmcr, Ls Eht, 65 

300 34 TR, mi, 1004 

289 2 BR, 886 

301 3 TR, 2H67* 

289 8 BR, 892 

301 6 X, 2, 296 

289 12 BR, 897 

301 12 TR, 3675 

290 4 BR, 900 

301 18 TR, 2047 

290 7 BR, 896 

301 22 TR, 4859 

290 10 BR, 894 

301 2H TR, 1656 

290 14 BR, 898 

301 30 7*R, 2I7J* 

290 25 Smith, ML, 168 

301 35 XXXVI, 360 

290 28 TR, 1656 t 317Ba 

302 1 TR, 236 

290 32 BR946 

302 3 TR, 35*0 

291 2 BR, 906 
291 11 BR, 1065 
291 18 Seidcmann, ZHT, 1860, 475- 

302 7 7*JC t 6320 
302 8 TR, 3508 
302 9 TR, 5524 

292 2 TR, 3038*, p, 154 
292 7 BR, 1078 

302 10 TR, 2350tf-* 
302 12 TR, 2764* 

292 9 TR, 1457 

302 21 TR, 2922* 

292 11 BR, 1009 

302 26 TH, Ml 3 

292 15 Kroker, 105 

302 29 TR, 2963 

292 16 TR, 3390 

302 32 TR, 4027 

292 23 BR, 2267 

303 1 TJM531 







303 29 BR, 1595 

304 8 XXXV, 434-35 

304 21 TR, 5494, pp. 190-91 

305 23 Clemen, Fhigschriften, IV, 


306 11 Ibid., II, 133-34 
306 13 Ibid., I, 69 

306 16 Ibid., II, 147 

306 18 Ibid., II, 142 

309 2 Ibid., I, 10-17 

309 9 Ibid., Ill, 201-3 

309 24 Ibid., Ill, 362-63 

309 31 Berger, V, 260-61 

310 19 Sachs, Werke, I, 8-24 

310 27 Clemen, Flugschriften, II, 

172; cf. Berger, II, 286 

311 8 BR, 465 

311 14 XIX, 75; Holl L, 360; Bain- 

ton, Development, 130-31 

312 29 Cf. Clemen, Plugs chrift en, I, 


313 19 Holl, I, 326-80 

314 5 Berbig, ARQ, III, 376 
314 9 Winter, 301 

314 20 BR, No. 1294, pp. 498-99 

315 30 RA, III, p. 386; Planitz, No* 


316 3 RA, III, No. 242 

316 4 Planitz, Nos, 200, 206, 209; 

RA, III, p. 385 

316 11 Planitz, No. 121, p, 273 

316 16 RA, III, No. 84 

316 23 RA, IV, No. 149 

317 7 Friedensburg, 161-62 

317 12 Ibid., 188 

318 7 RA, VII, pp. 1142-43 
318 11 Ibid., No. 72 

318 15 Ibid., No. 137, p, 1286 

319 5 BR, 1496 

320 2 Koehler, Marburg, 131 
320 11 Ibid., 139 

322 11 Reu, AC, No. 13 

323 8 BR, 1595 

323 19 Schirrmacher, 55 

324 5 CJR, II, 107, 115 

324 23 BR, No. 1611, p. 412 

324 34 BR, 1621 

325 30 XXX, 2, 397-412 

327 4 TR, 2771* 
327 26 BR, 492 

327 30 Reu, Bible, 160, 187 

328 2 BR, 556 

328 10 XXX, 2, 632-33 

329 8 Cf. Schmidt 

330 33 Grisar, L Studien, IE; 

Schramm; WA, Bibel II, 

331 4 XXX, 2, 632-33 
331 27 EA, LXXIII, 115 
331 29 TR, 32920 

331 33 VIII, 361 

332 6 Cf. Fullerton 
332 10 XXX, 2, 637 

334 2 Bibel, VII, ad loc. 

335 33 XXX, 2, 550 
337 11 XXX, 1, 249 
337 23 Ibid., 126-27 
339 6 Ibid., 132 

341 14 TR, 4441, 7034, 968; Op. 

Lat., VII, 591, 554; BR, 

342 26 Buszin, Music. Q. ? 95-96 

343 38 L, 368-73 

343 40 TR, 1300, 2362 

344 10 BR, 1727 
346 9 Bd, I, 539-40 

346 11 Buszin, Mus. Heritage, 116 

346 21 Koehler, "Lutherthum," 

SVRG, LI, 43 

347 11 XXXV, 419-21; cf. 97-109 


349 8 Cf. Kiessling 

349 13 TR, 272 

349 15 Bd, I, 555 

350 17 TR, 26Q6a-b 
350 35 LII, 774 

352 22 Bd, I, No. 4 

352 40 Bd, I, No. 28 

355 7 X, 1, 62-63; XLI, 480; XVII, 
2, 302; LII, 38; XVII, 2, 
303; X, 1, 65-66; XXXII, 
253-55; IX, 439-46 

357 40 XIX, 185-251 

358 35 XXXVIII, 360-62 


361 1 Reiter, II, 578 
361 10 BR, 1126 




361 20 

361 25 

361 27 

362 27 

362 30 

363 14 
363 17 
363 18 
363 21 
363 22 
363 24 
363 25 
363 27 
363 29 

363 31 
36? 32 

364 1 
364 5 
364 9 
364 26 

364 30 

365 9 
365 18 
365 21 
365 28 

367 3 

367 7 

367 9 

367 11 

367 14 

367 16 

367 20 

367 32 

368 1 
368 2 

TR, 1289, 1113; XXVII, 96 

TR, 4777 

TR, 199 

TR, 1557 

TR, 35587; 

XVII, 2, 202 

TR, 4329 

TR, 590 

BK, 1670 

TR, 1089 

TR, 4857 

TR, 122, p. 52 

BK, 1670 

TR, 1349 

TR, 833; cf. BR, 16711 > 

TR, 194 

RatKchcrger, 58 

TO, 1557 

XLVI, 210 

TO, 1631 

TO, 660 

TO, 2047 

Knders, XV, 172 

BK, 429 

XXVII, 64 

XXI, 111 

IX, 440-41 

BK, 1675 

XXIII, 133-M 

Buhlcr, 100-101 

Prcuss* M/, Vwpbct, %-97 

TO, 3588 

XII, 459 

XXVII, 482-84 

XXXVH, 241 


368 3 X, 1, 612-13 

368 5 IX, 517-19 

368 10 XVII, 2, 364-65 

370 5 XLIII, 200-220 

370 9 TR, 1032, 1033, 2754 

370 15 Stamge 

370 28 XVII, 1, 67-68 

370 30 V, 607 

372 20 XXXV, 455-57 


373 14 XXX, 3, 279 

375 11 Rockwell, Doppckhc 

375 16 RA, Vll, 1299, 1264 

375 19 Wappler, KurMcbsen, 21 

375 25 Menius, IVfadertattfer, 307 

376 2 XXVI, 145-46 
376 14 XXXI, 1, 208 

376 18 CK, IV, 739-40 

377 14 L,6-14 

377 23 C'jR, IV, 740 

377 27 TR, 5252/# 

^77 34 Wapplcr, Kttrsacbsen, 41, 94 

378 19 Mcnius, WicJertaufvr, 316^ 

379 8 TR, 29I2 
379 11 XI, 314 
379 16 XI, 336 
379 29 LIH, 417-18 

382 28 K, Miilkr, Wbdcrstond, and 

382 $3 Brf, 1, 468 
m 10 BK, 4158 

383 15 Smith, Af/-, 416-22 



Jacket Copper plate by Daniel Hopfer (1523). Schreckenbach, p. 71. 

pieces Geisberg, Die Reformation, No. xxxv, 7. 


3 Boehmer, p. 111. 

5 Johannes Luther, Die Titeleinfassungen, III (1909-13), 108. 

23-24 Emil Reicke, Der Lehrer in der deutschen Vergangenheit (1901), Nos. 36, 41, 

and 48. 

26 Luther Kalender (1909), p. 34. 

29 Friedrich Gerke, "Die satanische Anfechtung in der Ars Moriendi und bei 

Luther," Theohgische Blatter, II (1932), 321. 

31 Hartmann Schcdel, DAS Buch der Chroniken (1493). 

32 Propylamwdtgeschicbte, V, 12. 

35 J. A. Herbert, lllwninated Manuscripts (1911), p. 238. 

38 Michael Reu, Dr. Martin Luthers Leben (1917), p. 42. 

40 Propylaenweltgeschichte, V, 14. 

43 Luther's Bible (Sept., 1522). 

46-49 Albert Sehramm, Die Bilderschmuck der Frubdrucke, X (1927), Tafel 57, 

Nos. 91-94. 

53 VJLG, XV (1933), opp. p. 16. 

61 Luther's Bible (1541). Albert Sehramm, Luther und die Bibel, Tafel 277, 

p. 542, 

70 F. Lippmann, cd., Lucas Cranach (1895), No. 34. 

72-73 Alfred Woltmann, Holbein ( 1866), opp. p. 74. 

75 Gcisbcrg, Mder-Katalog, No. 1293* 

77 Gcisbcrg, Reformation^ Plate XIV, 7. 

78 From a contemporary tract On Aplas von Rom (n.d.). 

79 Schreckenbach, p. 64. 
81 Barbagallo, IV, 349. 
91 Boehmer, p. 135. 

94 Boehmer, p. 195. 

96 Thomas Wright, History of Caricature (1864), 258, No. 151. 

97 Paul Drews, Der evangelische Geistlicbe (1905), 51, No. 39. 

106 Schreckenbach, p. 145. 

107 Boehmer, p. 179. 

110 Hartmann Schcdel, Das Buch der Chroniken (1493). 

113 Boehmer, p* 229, 

118 Schreckenbach, p. 138. 

122 After Holbein, Cf. Bainton, Castellio, pp. xi, 44. 

130 Huttcn, Gesprachbuchlein. 

131 Clemen, Plu&cbriften, III (1909), 239, 

132 PropylaenweltgesMchte, V, 99. 




146 Boehmer, p. 289. 

153 Justus Hashagen, Martin Luther (1954), p. 41. 

156 Passmwl Clmsti mid Antichrist* (reprint 1885). 

159 Pflugk-Harttung, p. 523. 

165 Bochmer, p. 304. 

168 Hjalmar Holimjuisr, Martin Luther (1917), p. 136. 

171 PropylaenwdtgeschichtC) V, 87. 

173 Schrcckcnhach, p. 103. 

174 Schrcckcnbach, p. 100. 
182 Pflugk-Harttung, p. 437, 
187 lllnstrirte Zrimng (1917), 

193 Kunstvcrlsig Bruno Hunsmann, Cassell, No. 32335. 

194 Geisberg, Bilder-Katalvg, No. 302, 

196 Albert Schramm, Luther und die M>d, Tafcl 107, No. 190. 

199- Boehmer, p. 277* 

207 Goisbcrg, Reformation, XXVI, 27* 

211 Boehmer, t>, 151. 

222 Geisberg, Bttder-Katafag, No. 671. 

229 Schrcekenbach, p. 90. 

233 Luther's Bible (1534, facsimile 1934). 

235 Paul Hohcncmscr, ed,, Flu%schriftett$amrnfang Gtistav Freytag (1925), p. 95. 

236 Barbagallo, IV, 338. 

248 Pflugk-Harmmg, p. 396. 

251 Geisbcrg, MJer-Katofo& No. 420* 

260 Gunthcr Fran/,, BatiernMcfa p. 41 3. 

271 Otto Brandt, I)er deutsche K&uernkrieg (1929), p. 25. 

272 Fran/., Bauernkriefr p. 101. 

275 Propylaettweltxestihichte) V, 109. 

276 Wilhclm Hanscn, Das deiittrbe ftatternttan (1938), p. 70. 
279 Otto H. Brandt, Der RWSSC Batterttkrien (1925), opp. p. 1H4. 
282-83 Kranx, Bau*rttkric%, p. 215. 

284 Geisberg, Rtfortmtimi, X, 7. 

285 Above: Fricdrich Ik'/old, Oeschifhte der detttwhen Reformation (1890), 

p. 361. Below: Gerhard Rhtcr, Prttpytaettwettxetrhichte (2nd cd*) t p. 255, 

289 Adolf Barrels, Dcr Rmter in der deutfcben Vrsw%enbeit (1900), No. 58. 

291 Geisberg, JH/ifcr-Karotog, Nos. 423 ami 424. 

294 Aurifabcr, Tiscbreden (1568). 

297 Geisberg, /)iV detitsche fyiebttlmtratwn (1030), Tafcl 139, No. 309. 

306 Clemen, Fluxscbriftcn, I ( 1 907 ) , 69. 

307 Geisberg, Die dctttsfbe nucMllustratfan, 111 (1930), Tafcl 142, No. 312, 

308 Clemen, Fht&cbrifteij, III (1909) 362. 
321 PrvpylaenweltKeschicbtet V, 140. 

328 Luther's Bible (1534, facsimile 1934), 

329 Albert Sehramm, Luther md die BiM> Tafcl 222, No. 43J 

332-33 Albert Schramni v Luther und die BiM, Tafcl 19, No. 28; Tafcl 26, No. 35; 

Tafcl 192, No. 336. 
338 Above: Geisberg, Die Reformation, IX, 25. Below: Luther K&lender (1909), 

pp. 99; icu 

343 Hans Prcuss, Martin Luther der Kiinstler (1931), opp. p. 104. 
345 Lutber-Jahrhtcb, XV (1933), 107. 
349 Geisberg, Reformation, XX, 28, 
353 Albert Schramm, Luther und die SiM, Tafcl 129, No. 
360 Hjalmar Holmquist, Martin Luther (1917), p. 153. 




364 Lucas Cranach Ausstellung im deutschen Museum Berlin (1937), p. 133. 

366 Schreckenbach, p. 71. 

371 Charles Schneider, Luther, poete et muslclen (1942), p. 71. 

376 Luther's Bible (1534, facsimile 1934), adapted from the tide page of Hosea. 

381 Luther Jahrlmch, XV (1933), 106. 

383 Schreckenbach, p. 152. 



Aachen, 170, 354 

Abel, 141 

Abraham, 36, 100, 270, 334, 363, 368-70 

Absolution, 71, 137 

Adam, 55, 144, 219, 221, 237, 301-2, 310, 

334, 363 
Address to the Nobility, 136, 152-56, 


Advent, 350 
Accolti, Cardinal, 145 
Against the Execrable Bull, 160-62 
Against the Peasants, 278-79 
Agnus Dei, 27, 306-7 
Agricoln, Stephan, 321 
Albert of Main/,, 74-76, 79, 80, 82, 84, 

92, 133, 159, 168, 175, 188, 191, 198, 

200, 204, 205, 2H8, 291, 323-25 
Alcandcr, Jerome, 156-60, 168-69, 170, 

175, 177, 179, 180, 186-90, 192, 198 
Alexander VI, 50 
Alsace, 269, 275 
Alstedt, 262, 264 
America, 30 

Amsdorf, Nicolas, 214, 288, 290 
Anabaptists, 141-42, 258, 265-67, 281, 

284, 311, 312, 314, 325, 375-78 
Anfcchtimx, 42, 62, 335, 357, 361. See 

also Depression 
Annas, 89, 184, 191 
Annarcs, 92, 155 
Anne, St., 21, 26, 28, 34, 386 
Antichrist, 21, 109-11, 135, 156, 160-63, 

165-66, 179, 194, 205, 215, 250, 330 
Antwerp, 157-58 
Apocrypha, 117-18 
Apostles' Creed, 176, 298, 336-37, 344 
Aquinas, Thomas, 33, 122, 219, 232, 

236, 237, 243 

Aristotle, 27, 122, 126, 237 
Art, 49, 208, 257, 266 
Assertion of All the Articles, 164-65 
Assisi, 306 

Assyria, 217, 239, 355 
Asterisks, 107 
Astrology, 271 

Athenians, 143 

Attrition, 81 

Augsburg, 91-92, 94, 96, 100, 124, 174, 

310, 315, 317, 323-25. See also 

Augsburg Confession, 129, 322, 324-25, 

Augustine, 58, 61, 86, 115, 123, 133, 

218-20, 232, 238, 240-41, 298, 341, 

353, 385 
Augustinians, 34, 44, 48, 49, 53, 85, 86, 

89, 91, 93, 96, 144, 197, 200, 201, 

general of, Gabriele della Volta, 85, 

cloister in Wittenberg, 52, 59, 60, 

203, 290-91 
Augustus, 243 

Austria, 127, 181, 186, 267, 284 
Auto da f 9 158 

Baal, 194, 249, 264 
Babel, tower of, 49 
Babylon, 98, 105, 164, 174, 185, 217, 

232, 330, 332-33 
Babylonian Captivity, The, 136-40, 

176, 180, 183, 188, 200, 202 
Bach, Johann Sebastian, 334, 341, 385 
Baden, 267 

Ban, 88-89, 91, 100, 102, 127, 166 
Banishment, 99-101, 262, 314, 315 
Baptism, 137-38, 140, 142, 152, 367 
Baptism, infant, 208, 257, 259, 260, 267 
Baroque, 330 
Barth, Karl, 83 

Basel, 95, 121, 192, 265, 317, 319 
Basel, Council of, 117 
Bathsheba, 339 

Bavaria, 156, 158, 251, 284, 315, 343 
Beatitudes, 232 
Becket, a, Thomas, 126 
Behemoth, 265 
Belvedere, 330 
Benedict, St., 32 



Bernard, St., 61, 201, 353 
Bethlehem, 25, 220, 353 

authority, 42, 44, 89, 90, 96-98, 162, 
164, 177, 185, 189, 208, 367 

canon, 332 

chair of, 59-60 

inspiration, 331 

translation, 61, 197, 211, 326-35, 384 

see also Word of God 
Bigamy, 373-75 
Blasphemy, 59, 83, 124, 161, 162, 174, 

250, 311, 361, 376 
Bohemia, 92, 111, 115, 117, 119, 140, 

145, 14H, 155, 178, 277 
Bohemian Brethren, 336, &*r nho 

Bologna, 107 
Boniface VIII, 90 
Brabant, 121 
Brandenburg, 119, 158, 178, 239, 251, 


Brenz, John, 87, 321 
Brethren of the Common Life, 247 
Brigitta, St* 48, 69 

Buccr, Martin, 87, 134, 181, 319, 320-2! 
Bugenhagen, John, 201 
Bund, 270-71, 277 
Buttdscbuch, 187, 270-71, 284 
Bunyan, John, 385 
Burgundy, 181, 186 

Luther's work* 143, 147, 151, 158-59 t 
172-73, 175, 191 

papal bull and canon law, 165*66, 
174, 189 

Caesar, appeal to, 157, 172, 179 

Caiaphas, 89, 142, 191 

Cain, 142, 302 

Cajctan, 91-98, 101-5, 136, H9, 144-4$, 

Callistus, SL, 48 

Calvinism, 382 

Campeggio, Lorenao, 309, 323-24 

Canaanite, 362-63 

Canute, 69 

Capitalism, 237 

Carktadt, Andreas, 106, 107, 111-14, 
157, 192, 197, 200, 203, 206-8, 210, 
214, 256-60, 263-66, 293, 339 

Carthusian, 33, 45, 234 

Carvajal, Cardinal, 145 

Castelo de St. Angdo, 330 

Castle Church, 52, 69, 73-74, 79, 104, 
169, 197, 201, 203-4, 206, 249, 315 
Catechism, 336-39 
Quharinus, Ambrosius, 197 
Celibacy, 155, 200-201, 300, 352 
Celtcs, 'Conrad, 29 
Chancellor of Saxony, Briick, 321-22 
Charlemagne, 175, 181 
Charles 1 of England, 164 
Charles V, 10*, 127, 142, 151, 157, 158, 
160, 162, 166, 167, 170, 173, 175-78, 
181, 183, 186, 188-92, 251, 317, 
322-23, 325, 375, 381-82 
Charybdis, 255 

deserted, 62, 231, 370, 386 

example, 231 

incarnation, 60, 123, 138 

judge, 29, 34, 58, 62, $65 

kingdom of, 241, 311, 351 

love, 89 

mediator, 66, 68, 22*, U6 

merits, 83 

rcvealer, 220-24, 380, W> 

Saviour, 59, 65, 69 

sinicssncss, 46 

victor, 66, 310, 357 

we &h& Jesus, Passion 
Christmas, 206, 221, 30,?, 350 
Chrysostom, Sr*, 7i 

allied with state, 141, 152, 241 

condition of, 305 

doctrine of, 6H> 1*8, 140*42, 310-H 

gathered, 141 
Cistercians, 32 

Clement VII, 316 
Clergy, powers of, 137-40 

life in, 37-38 

Luther's entry, 23, 34-36 
Colmrg, 322 
Cologne, 143, 145, 162, 165, 166, 170, 

310, 323 
Columbus, 30 
Communism, 267 
Compcmclft, 367 
Cnnciliarixm, 145, 154, 164 
Confession, 46, 49, 54-56, 71-72, 78, 

B7, 197,206,209 
Confirmation, 137 
Conrad, Bishop, 28! 
Conscience, 185, 194, 318, HI, 35U 356 



Consistory, papal, 144-47 

Constance, 305, 317 

Constance, Council of, 115-18 

Constant! ne, 108 

Constantine, Donation of, 124 

Consubstantiation, 140 

Contrition, 71-72, 78, 81, 86, 88, 137, 


Corpus Christi, 111, 324 
Corsica, 306 

appeal to, 97-99, 147, 151 
authority of, 90, 102, 116-17, 119, 

177, 185, 190, 367 
Counsels of perfection, 45, 201, 227 
Counter Reformation, 159, 192, 247, 

250, 284, 385 

Cranach, Lucas, 69, 155, 292, 328, 330 
Cranmcr, Thomas, 384 
Creation, 216, 221, 235, 367 
Croesus, 293 
Cromwell, Oliver, 277 
Cross of Christians, 262 
Crotus Rubcanus, 123 
Crusades, 72, 92, 93, 103, 203, 236, 268 
Cujus rcgio, 316 
Cum Postquam, 102 
Curia, 80, 101, 104, 105, 131, 134, 143- 

44, 160, 164, 168-69, 173 

Damascus, 60 

Damnation, 64, 82, 194, 309 

Daniel, 164, 205, 261, 263-64, 378 

Dante, 243 

David, 73, 144, 218-19, 261, 280, 320, 
330, 334, 339, 343, 361, 363 


Art of Dym& 29, 357 
dance of, 29 
penalty, 241, 250, 267, 376 

Decretals, 95, 96, 98, 105, 108-9, 115, 
118, 250 

Degrees, academic, 259 

Denmark, 69 

Depression, 28, 33, 42, 55-56, 218, 295, 

Deuteronomy, 237 

Devil, 37, 42, 44-45, 54, 66, 89, 179-80, 
193-95, 200-201, 209-9, 212-13, 218, 
220, 240, 245, 253, 263, 284, 288, 
308-9, 328, 337, 341, 352, 361-63, 
367, 370, 374. Sw also Lucifer, 

Devils, 27, 30, 281, 3tt 


Augsburg (1518), 91, 92, 93, 96 
Worms (1521), 90, 91, 105, 167-89, 

191, 194, 212, 215, 238, 252-53, 263, 
286, 315-16, 358, 380 

Niirnberg (1522), 209, 211, 214, 251, 

315; (1524) 316 
Speyer (1526), 317; (1529) 318-20, 


Augsburg (1530), 315, 323 
Diseases, Luther's, 45, 56, 195, 292, 361, 


Divorce, 375 
Doctor's degree, Luther's, 59, 85, 191, 

331, 337 
Dominicans, 73, 77, 87, 89, 97, 103, 134, 


Domitian, 48 
Dostoevski, 385 

Doubt, 44, 51, 58, 91, 194, 364-65 
Drinking, 298 
Diirer, Albrecht, 62, 125, 128-30, 157, 

191-92, 330 

Easter, 45, 334, 346, 350 
Ebcrnburg, 132-34, 168, 181, 213 
Eck, John of Ingolstadt, 107-20, 132, 

143-45, 150, 156-58, 160-63, 166, 

169, 237, 324, 330 
Eck, John of Trier, 182-83, 185 
Economics, 236, 268-69, 277, 384 
Education, 23-25, 27, 68, 235, 335 
Edwards, Jonathan, 385 
Egypt, 217-18, 266 
Eisenach, 193, 377 
Elbe, 52, 72 
Elect, 262 
Eleuthcrius, 125 
Elijah, 194, 261, 378 
Elisabeth, mother of the Baptist, 218 
Elizabeth, St., 193 
Elster Gate, 165 
Emser, Jerome, 330 
Endor, witch of, 140 
England, English, 114, 121, 127, 130, 

169, 180, 252, 268, 314, 380, 384 
Epicurean, 177 
Epiphany, 350 
Equalitarianism, 259-60, 270 
Erasmus, 87, 125-29, 131, 137, 139, 142, 

157, 159, 169, 170, 172, 176, 180, 

192, 217, 226, 247, 252-57, 265-67, 
298, 323, 324, 337, 344, 385 

Erbe, Fritz, 377 



Erfurt, 25, 27, 32-34, 46, 48, 52, 87, 
112, 143, 158, 179, 195, 292 

Esau, 254, 288 

Eschatology, 149, 295 

Ethics, 225-45 

Eucharist, 121. Sec also Mass 

Europe, 69, 127, 236, 268, 375, 383 

Evangelical experience, 60 

Eve, 55, 301, 363 

Excommunication of Luther, 96, 98, 
126, 147, 148, 168, 170, 177, 189 

Exsurge Doming 145-48, 156-57, 160- 
62, 168, 177 

Extreme unction, 137 

E?.ekiel, 334 

Em, 232 

Fnber, John, 330 

Faith, 65, 83, 139, 141, 142, 154, 155, 
176, 206, 217, 223-24, 22H, 230, 
300, 314, 322, 325, 331, 378 

Fall of man, 221, 235-36, 237, 310 

Family, 236, 240, 268, 298-99 

Fasting, 45, 206. Sec also Mortification 

Ferdinand of Austria, 127, 251, 267, 
315-17, 320, 323 

Ferdinand of Spain, 181 

Folklore, 26-27 

Forgiveness, 228, 351, 358 

Fortuna, 124 

France, French, 21, 100, 114, 121, 127, 
130, 170, 180, 186, 191, 233, 248, 
268, 28H, 299, 317, 328, 380, 382 

Francis I, 127 

Francis, St M 126 

Franciscans, 53, 144, 205, 237 

Franconia, 156, 276 

Frankenhausen, 37H 

Frankfurt, 133, 380 

Fraticelli, HI 

Frederick Barharossa, 203 

Frederick the Wise, 53, 69-72, 78-79, 
86, 90-93, 97-100, 104-5, 128, 144, 
148, 155, 158, 160, 166-73, 178, 180, 
183, 186-89, 191, 193, 200, 203, 205, 
209-11, 248-51, 263, 278, 280, 286, 
315-16, 330, m, 342, 344 

Freedom of the Christian Mm, 136, 

163, 177, 180, 188, 230-31 
Freedom of the Will, On the, 253 
Free will, 253-55 
Freiburg im Brefogau, 95 
Fritz, courc fool, 168 

Frohen, John, 121, 125 

r Jacob, 75-76, 80, 104, 237 

Gabriel, 218, 291, 296, 365, 367 
Galatians, 60, 125, 293 
Galilee, 133, 353 
Gamaliel, 188, 209, 325 
Genesis, 293 
Gentiles, 86, 117, 255 
George, I>uk<% 107, 108, 111, 116, 119, 
158, 184, 188, 209, 212, 252, 254, 
256, 2KO, 315, 330, 333, 344, 374 
George of Brandenburg, 323 
George, St, 112 

Gernun language, 25, 116, 127-28, 
m, W, WH, 206, 326, 330, 332, 
3-U), 347 
German mmm, 92, 160, 175, 180, 184, 

186, 247 

Germany, 22, 50, 69, 73-75, 80, 83, 85, 
87, W, 95, 103, 105, 121, 130-33, 
HM5, H7, 155, 167, 172, W, 187, 
188, 194, 26H, 2*U 296, 305, 316, 
317, 322, , W, 384 
GethKcnwne, 242 
Citation, 180, IK*, IKK 
Glut/,, Kaspar, 2K7-8H 

absolute, 219 
abyss of, 57 
dualism, 241 
Father, 357 
hidden, 21H t 241 
holy, 42, 45, 62 
justice of, 5H-5V, 370 
love of, <*, 223,361 
majesty of, 41-42, 57-59, 62, 76, 183, 

2W/22J, 255, W, 3B5 
nwrcy <>f, 63, 65-6$, 68, 82, 242, 255, 


substance of, H9 
terror of, K 1 *S t 183 
vengeance, JHO 
wisdom, 34$ 
wrath of, 2H, 54, 58, 65, 68, 162, 242, 


Goliuth, 107, 144 2HO 
Good Hope, Cttj>e of, 30 
<x<tspci, 9H, 1 *S, 14*, W, 176, 191, 242, 


Gothic, 25, 72 

Grace, 34, 39, W, W, 350, 352 

Greece, 217 

Greek Church, 115, H<5 t 129 



Greek language, 88, 106, 113, 125, 129, 

156, 197, 266, 326 t 340, 385 
Gregorian chant, 342 
Gregory I, 88 

Hadrian VI, 247, 250-51,253 

Halberstadt, 74 

Halle, 47, 198, 292 

Hannibal, 288 

Hapsburg, 74, 103, 131, 181, 186, 251, 

267, 315, 317 
Heathen, 343 

Heaven, 57, 218, 296, 300, 343 
Hebrew, 85, 113, 123-24, 156, 211, 213, 

259, 326, 345, 356, 3H5 
Hebrews, Epistle to, 332 
Hedio, Caspar, 321 
Heidelberg, 86, 134 
Hcinrich of Zuctphcn, 360 
Hell, 28, 30, 33, 34, 50, 102, 218, 220, 

309, 357, 374-75 
Henry VIII, 127, 252, 256 
Hercules, 121 

"Here I stand," 185-86, 386 
Heresy, 90, 91, 93, 101, 143, 145, 163, 

186, 190 
Heretic, 89, 98, 101-4, 119, 121, 147-49, 

155, 162, 175, 177-78, 181, 186, 252 
Herod, 368 
History, 30, 217 

Hoehstratcn, Jacob von, 121, 122, 124 
Hohen7,ollcrn, 74 
Holbein, Hans, 72, 122 
Holcot, Robert, 121 
Holiness, 45, 260 
Holy Roman Empire, 22, 103, 130, 144, 

167, 181, 184, 325, 382 
Holy Spirit. Sec Spirit 
Holy, terror of, 41, 183, See also God 
Hope, 54 
Horeb, 194 

Hours, canonical, 37, 195 
Humanism, 123-24, 129, 131, 134, 156- 

57, 170, 176, 252, 267, 336 
Hungary, 169 
Hus, John, 102, 115-21, 145, 155, 165, 

176-77, 185 

Hussites, 111, 116, 119, 140, 203, 248 
Hutten, a, 244 
Hutten, Ulrich von, 130-35, 148, 152, 

159-60, 168, 170, 173, 176-77, 180- 

81, 188, 192, 212-13 
Hymns, 345-47 
Aus tiefer Not> 346 

Hymns cont'd 
Em fcste Burg, 345, 370-71 
Gelobest scist Du, 303 
Nu fretit eiich) 66-67 
Von Hivmi el Hoch, 303 

Images, 198, 207, 210, 260, 306 

Individualism, 141 

Indulgences, 30, 47, 69, 71-85, 86, 89, 

91-92, 98, 102, 105, 118, 124, 126, 

127, 139, 143, 145, 155, 165, 176, 


Inquisitors, 116, 172 
Interdict, 173 

Inwardness, 126, 242, 260, 262, 264, 36T 
Ironsides, 277 
Isaac, 36, 270, 368-70, 383 
Isabella, 157, 181 
Isaiah, 220, 344 
Ishmaclttcs, 217 
Israel, 111, 185,266,273, 363 
Italy, Italian, 49-50, 73, 80, 100, 107, 

131-32, 144 

Jacob, 254, 328-30 

James, Epistle of, 177, 331, 332 

Jansscn, Johannes, 271, 318 

Jena, 263 

Jericho, 154 

Jerome of Croatia, 116 

Jerome, St., 71 

Jerusalem, 30, 82, 105, 181, 232-33, 353 

Jesuit, 255, 346 

Jesus, 71, 106, 161, 174, 191, 216, 251, 

337, 343, 350. Sec also Christ 
Jews, 86, 157, 162, 185, 227, 232, 255, 

314, 327, 379-80 
Jezebel, 194 

Joachim of Brandenburg, 169, 251, 315 
John Frederick, 263, 330, 344, 381 
John of Saxony, 263, 278, 323-24, 342, 


John, St., 48, 332, 346, 349, 3<$0 
Jonah, 55, 355-57, 368 
Jonas, Justus, 201, 203, 303, 321 
Joseph (Old Testament), 217 
Joseph (New Testament), 218, 288, 

353-54, 367 
Josiah, 249 
Jost, 303 
Judaism, 225 
Judas, 48, 350 
Jude, 332 
Judgment, day of, 29, 32 



Julius II, 68, 75, 90, 99, 147, 163 
Justification, 64-65, 332 

Kappell, 322 
Keys, power of, 81, 189 
Kierkegaard, S0rcn, 385 
Knights, 131, 193, 212 
Kopp, Leonard, 286, 290 
Koran, 239 

Lairy, 138, 145, 172, 189, 198, 251 

Lang, Cardinal, 178, 191, 251, 309 

Lapland, 27 

Larcran Council V, 117 

Larimer, 1 1 ugh, 3 84 

Latin language, 24-25, 79, 88, 156, 186, 

191, 206, 339-40, 345, 34H 
Latomus, Bartholomew, 197 

canon, 103, 114, 135, 141, 166, 176 

civil, 24 

Cicnmn, 269, 351 

Old Testament, 310, 331, 334 

Roman, 40, 268 
Layman, Luther quoting Rmormitamts 

* on, 96, 116, 117 

Catholic, 267, 315 

Swabian, 280-83 
Leah, 299 

Legalism, 36, 257, 260 
Lem'/Jg, 108, 115, 124, 165, 212, 2V l % 

debate, 111-21, 132, W, 182, W 

University, 53, 107-8, 111 
Lembcrgcr, George, 329-30 
Lent, 45, 126, 350 

Leo X, 47, 73, 74, 76, 79, H5, 87, 92, 
97, V8, 104, 111, 147-48, 157-58, 
161-64, 251, 316 
Leviathan, 265 
Leviticus, 327 

Liberty, religious, 128, 147, 155, 242 % 
249, 264, 267, 312, 314, MH, *2S, 

Lichtcnburg, 160 
Lie, 242, 374 
Liege, 159 
Uppus, 303 

Lhemy of the Gmrniw, 179 
Literalism, 258, 319 
Liturgy, 311,325, 339-40, 344 
Littkau, 69 
Lochau, 312 
Lombard, Peter, 122 


Lord's Prayer, 298, 301, 336-37, 358 
Lord's Supper, 140, 214, 258, 265, 318- 

20, 339, 374. Sec also Mass 
Louvain, 95, 143, 145, 158, 162, 192 
Low Countries, 156-57, 181, 192, 342 
Lucifer, 307, 309, Sec also Devil, Satan 
Ludwig of the Palatinate, 187, 189 
Ludwig of Saxony, 352 
Luke, St., 49, 54/134 
Luther, Martin 

birth, 22 

schooling, 22-25, 27 

early religious disquiet, 25-30 

entry into the monastery, 30-36 

novitiate, 37-38 

recurrence of disquiet; the first mass, 

self-help through mortification, 44- 

the merits of the saints; trip to 
Rome, 46-51 

permanent residence in Wittenberg, 

influence of Sutupitx, 53 

exploring confession, 54-56 

the inadequacy of mysticism, 56-57 

doubts as to the justice of God, 58 

blasphemy, 59 

appointment to the chair of Bible, 

the evangelical cxrx?rience, 60-63 

justification by faith 64-66 

commencement of reform in theo- 
logical training, 69 

indulgences at Wittenberg, 69-70 

lirst protests, 71-72 

indulgence for St Peter*s, TesRel, 

Niuety-Fhv Times, 79-83 

reported to Rome, H4 

Heidelberg Disputation, 86 

Dominican assault, 87 

attack on penance, papal primacy, 
the ban, HH 

reply of Pricrias, 89-90 

case referred to Cajetan in Ger* 
many, 90-92 

interviews with Gajetan, 93-97 

threatening exile, 98-101 

O/w Pttsttjuwt, defines indulgences, 

im;Krriai election affords respite, 103 

Milw/. appointed to negotiate, 104-5 

arrival of Alcbnchthon, 106 


Luther, Martin confd 
challenge of Eck, 107-8 
Luther suspects the pope is Anti- 
christ, 109-10 
Leipzig, debate, 111-20 
the endorsement of Hus, 115-20 
dissemination of Luther's writings, 

Renaissance and Reformation, 123- 


Erasmus and Luther, 125-28 
Melanchthon and Luther, 128-29 
Diirer and Luther, 129-30 
German nationalism and the Refor- 
mation, 130-35 
Hutten, Sickingen, and Luther, 

respite and writing, October 1519- 

October 1520, 136 
"Babylonian Captivity and the sacra- 
ments, 137-42 

persecution resumed, 142-43 
the bull Exsurge, 145-47 
Luther's attitude: incendiary and 

apocalyptic, 148-50 
appeal to the emperor, 151 
Address to the Nobility, 152-54 
publication of the bull, 156-58 
burning of Luther's books, 159-61 
Against the Execrable Bull, 161-62 
Freedom of the Christian Man, 163- 


Assertion of All the Articles, 164-65 
Luther's burning of the bull, 166 
the German constitution, 167 
parties on the eve of Worms, 168-70 
hearing promised and recalled, 170- 


Aleander's bungling of the prosecu- 
tion, 175 

violent temper at the Diet, 176 
Aleander's speech, 177-78 
invitation to Luther renewed, 178-79 
Glapion's attempt at mediation, 180- 

Luther before the Diet of Worms, 


the Edict of Worms, 186-90 
Luther's trial compared to Christ's 

passion, 191-92 
at the Wartburg, 193 
depression and disease, 194-95 
literary labors, 197 

Luther, Martin cont'd 

reformation at Wittenberg, 197-204 

On Monastic Vows, 201 

the mass, 202 

outbreak of violence, 203-4 

exploratory return to Wittenberg, 

tumult: Carlstadt and iconoclasm, 

Luther invited to return, 210-12 

the return: plea for moderation, 

Luther's theology, 215-25 

nature, history, philosophy inade- 
quate as revelation, 216-20 

Christ the sole revealer, 220-25 

Luther's ethics: the menace to 
morals, 225-28 

the ground of goodness, 225-31 

the callings, 232-35 

economics, 236-37 

politics, 238-41 

church and state, 241-46 

conflict with the Counter Reforma- 
tion, 247-52 

recoil of the moderates: Erasmus, 

insurgence of the Puritans: Carl- 
stadt, 256-60 

the revolutionary saints: Miintzer, 
_ 260-64 

rival movements: Zwinglianism and 
Anabaptism, 265-68 

social unrest: Peasants' War, 268-86 

Luther's marriage, home life, Table 
Talk, views of marriage, 286-304 

dissemination of the reform by 
pamphleteering, 305-10 

problems of Church administration, 

the visitation, 313-14 

the protest at Speyer, 315-18 

attempt at Protestant alliance: Mar- 
burg Colloquy, 318-22 

Augsburg Confession, 322-25 

Bible translation, 326-35 

catechisms, 336-39 

liturgy, 339-40 

music, 340-44 

hymns, 345-47 

preaching, 348-57 

prayer, 358 

Luther's persistent religious difficul- 
ties, 359-72 



Luther, Mzrtin-cont'd 

the bigamy of the Landgrave Philip, 

the Anabaptists, 375-78 

the Jews, 379-80 

the emperor, 380-82 

estimate of Luther, 382-86 
Lutheran, 318-20, 339, 374, 382 
Lyra, Nicholas, 122 

Maccabees, 117 

Magdeburg, 33, 74, 288 

Magistrate, 152, 236, 238, 241-45, 262, 

313, 351 

Magliana, 144, 147 
Magnificat, 27, 197, 242 
Mama, 74, 159, 166, 173, 239, 296 

depravity of, 113, 143, 211 

nature of, 56, 253 

r<? also Fall, Natural man 
Manassch, 73 
Mansfcld, 27, 296, 383 
Marburg, 319-20 
Mark, St,, 134 
Marram, 157 

of clergy and religious, 155, 198-201, 
209, 247, 252, 260, 286 

Luther's, 286-304 

Luther's views of, 298-302, 352 

sacrament of, 137 
Martyrdom, 161, 175, 185, $92, 264, 

288, 360, 380 
Mary Magdalene, 29 
Mary, Virgin, 28, 32, 38, 46, 49, 58, 70, 
79, 95, 205, 218, 233, 262, 270, 306, 
328, 330, 353-54, 367 
Mass, 39, 139, 202, 204, 249 

both kinds, 140, 198, 203, 206 

canon of, 339-40 

consubstamiatitm, 140 

for the dead, 50, 198 

elevation, 203, 340 

endowed, 204, 249 

German, 209, 339-40, 342, See <fao 

Luther's first, 39, 183 

private, 202 

reform of, 206 

sacrifice, 139, 202, 206, 339 

transubstanuacion, 138-39 

at Wittenberg, 249-50 
Master of Arts, 27 

Matthew, St., 134, 195, 341, 349, 374 
Maximilian, Emperor, 90-93, 103, 133, 

157, 181 

Medici, 74, 79, 93, 316 
Meissen, Bishop of, 158, 209-11 
Mclanchthon, Philip, 106, 112, 124, 
128-29, 139, 155, 165, 194, 197, 201, 
208, 210, 214, 226, 271, 296, 303, 
313, 339, 320-21, 324, 336, 345, 
377-78, 383 
"Melancolia," 129 
Merits, 46-51, 54, 69, 71, 81, 83, 98, 

102, 225, 300, 334, 336 
Mcrschurg, 158 
Middle Ages, 25, 27, 44, 103, 111, 166, 

236, 26H, 298, 336, 344, 380 
Middle Way, 256 
Midianircs, 280 

Miltitz, Carl von, 1Q3-4, 160, 163 
Ministry, 273 

lay, 259 

Luther's, 382-83 
Moab, 255 
Mochau, Anna, 200 
MonastR-iMii, 22, 32-33, 45, 138, 232, 

237, 300, 306 

Monastic ^uv O/i 201, 204 
Morals* See Ft hies 
Moravia, 379 
Mortification, 45, 128 

Moses, 22, 41, 48, 71, 232, 275, 278, 
327, 330, 3H*f 

Mtinstcr, 37H 

Mimt/cr, Thoiius 25H-64, 266-67, 270, 

277-K4, 340, *?H 
Music, 208, 257, 266, 340-47, 363 

choral, 342 

not contentious, 343 

in des|*md?ncy, 363 

modes, 342 

polyphonic, 342, 344 
56-57, 364 


Naples, H4, 1H1 

Nationalism, 21, 127, 130-35, 184 

Nativity, 353-55, 368 

Natural law, 227 

Natural man, 239, 242* &?<? also Man 

Nature, 216-17, 255 

Nazareth, 233, 353-54 

Nebtichttdne/jMir, 263-64 

Nehtmiah, 232 

Neighbor, love of, 231, 239, 301, 351 


Netherlands. See Low Countries 
New Testament, 125-26, 197, 226, 257, 

312, 327, 329, 331-32, 334, 336 
Nimrod, 92 

Ninety-Five Theses, 79-84, 87, 121 
Nineveh, 355 
Noah, 129, 172, 296, 334 
Nonresistance, 135, 149, 212, 274, 381 
Novitiate, 37 
Niirnberg, 29, 87, 97, 109, 124, 127, 157, 

252, 287, 290, 310, 315, 317 

Oaths, 267 

Obelisks, 107 

Occam, William, 122, 219 

Oecolampadius, John, 319, 321 

Old Testament, 62, 117, 232, 262, 326- 

27, 331, 334, 374 
Ordination, 137-38 
Orlamiinde, 214, 258, 263 
Osiander, Andreas, 321 
Ovid, 190 

Pacifism, 267. See also Nonresistance 
Paduska, John, 119 
Palatinate, 178, 187, 189, 251, 276 
Palestine, 328, 379 
Palm Sunday, 179 
Pamphleteering, 305 
Pantheon, 75, 330 

antiquity, 98, 108, 114-15, 175 
infallibility, 89, 98, 126-27, 248 
primacy, 114-15, 164 
Papacy at Rome, The, 136 
Paradise, 32, 78, 296, 368 
Paradox, 254 

Paris, 95, 112, 143, 156, 197, 310 
Pascal, Blaise, 385 
Passion of Christ, 191, 330, 370 
Pastor, Ludwig von, 75 
Pater Noster, 38, 48, 50. See also 

Lord's Prayer 
Patmos, 191, 193, 197 
Paul, St., 48, 58, 60, 64, 75, 76, 87, 106, 

108, 124, 128, 143, 147, 164, 176, 

225, 232, 238, 254, 266, 298, 331-32, 

334, 349, 350, 381, 385 
Peasants, 26, 86, 131-33, 186, 311, 339 
Peasants' War, 265, 268-85, 287, 293, 


Pecca Fortiter, 225 
Penance, 54, 57, 81, 86, 88, 102-3, 118, 

137, 143 

Penitence, On, 121 
Pentecost, 346, 350 
Perfection, unattainable, 46, 227, 239, 


Persia, 217 
Perugia, 306 
Peter, Epistle of, 332 
Peter, St., 29, 48, 56, 75-78, 80, 98, 

108, 114, 147, 162, 169, 172, 191, 

233, 270, 331, 349, 350 
Peter's, St., basilica of, 48-49, 74-77, 

80, 132 

Pfeflferkorn, John, 123-24, 380 
Pharaoh, 182, 185, 198, 259, 273 
Pharisees, 143, 192 
Philip of Hesse, 280, 316-20, 322-25, 

373-75, 382 
Philosophy, 63, 219 
Pilate, 48, 50, 89, 191-92, 245 
Pilgrimages, 30, 48-49, 126-27, 155, 367 
Pinturicchio, 49 
Pirkheimer, Willibald, 124-25, 157, 181, 


Pius II, 147, 163 
Political theory, 239-45, 380-82. See 

also Magistrate, Resistance, Non- 
resistance, Liberty, Revolution 
Poor relief, 207, 210 
authority of, 89-90, 95-96, 102, 108, 

114, 126, 367 

contrasted with Christ, 155 
see also Papacy 
Portuguese, 157 
Prague, 119 

Prayer, 57-58, 195, 206, 358 
Preaching, 349-58, 383 
Predestination, 115, 253-55. See also 

Free will 
Prierias, Sylvester, 89, 91, 93, 121, 124, 

144, 145, 149 
Priesthood of all believers, 137, 145, 

152-54, 248, 270 
Protestants, 255, 257, 261-62, 286, 318, 

324-25, 375 

Protestation at Speyer, 318 
Prussia, 27, 301 
Psalms, 60-62, 68, 197, 208, 267, 335, 

337, 345-46, 367 
Pubelsberg, 27 
Purgatory, 28, 47, 50, 71, 76, 78-83, 

88, 102, 104, 108, 117, 143, 176, 




Puritan, 1<54, 256-60, 275, 382 
Pyramus, 208 

Quakers, 259 

Rachel, 299 
Raphael, 365 
Rauebcrger, 363 
inadequate, 59, 63, 125, 219, 223, 254, 

255, 334, 355, 357 
right, 95, 166, 185, 239, 254 
Reformation, the, 123-24, 127, 207, 

210, 269, 271, 280, 309, 345, 348 
Relics of the saints, 47, 49 f 69-72, 76, 

104, 203, 249, 296 
Renaissance, 21, 25, 27, 28, 49-50, 123- 

30, 141, 237, 247, 299, 330 
Rent, 273 

Repentance, 64, 88 
Resistance, 243, 380-82 
Resolutions, 88, 121 
"Respectively** in papal bull, 1 16 f 147, 


Restitution, 257, 267 
Resurrection, 150, 358, 370 
Reuchlin, John, 124, 134, 143, 158 
Revelation, 116, 130, 216-25, 261, 361- 

71, 380 
Revelation, book of, 197, 327, 329, 330, 

Revolution, 178, 205, 243, 24tf, 252, 

260-64, 280, 377. Sec also Resist- 

Rhaw, Georg, 112, 344 
Rhine, 156, 157, 168, 254 f 269 
Riario, Cardinal, 134, 144 
Richard of Greiffenklau, 105, 112, 144, 

160, 182, 188, 212 
Rink, Meichior, 378 
Romans, of antiquity, 253 
Romans, Epistle to, 60, 65, 68, 125, 


Romantic love, 299 
Rome, Church of, 88, 89, 92 t 95, 98, 

100, 105, 108, 114-16, 128, 131, 134- 

37, 142-44, 147 f 154, 157, 161, 176, 

190, 214, 248, 252, 254 $** *lso 

Rome, city, 48, 50-52, 69, SO, 82, 85, 

86, 88, 90, 95, 97-101, 105, 120, 123, 
131-32, 170, 172, 2I7 f 288, 309, 367 
Rose, golden, 104, 169 
Rotterdam, 253 

Rofcdaloxvski, Wensel, 119 
Rupf, Conrad, 342 

Sabbatarianism, 259-60, 337-38 

Sachs, Hans, 310 

Sacrament??, 50, 54, 68, 126, 137-40, 143, 

189, 224, 248, 257-58, 265, 266, 299. 

Sec also Baptism, Lord's Supper, 

Mass, Confirmation, Marriage, 

Penance, Extreme unction, Ordi- 

Safe conduct, 92, 108, 147, 172, 178-80, 

186, 189 
AH Saints', 69, 71, 76, 79, 85, 203, 


canonr/ation, 155 
cult, 337 
despised, 217 
intercession, 30, 58 
sec also Relics, Merits 
Salvation, 82, H6, 126, 225 
Salzburg, 100 
Samarirun, 64 
Sanballat, 252 
Sarah, 36H-70 
Satan, 135, 149, 160-65, 172, 194, 218, 

295, 309, 362. See also Devil 
Satisfaction, 71 
Saxony, 115-16, IIB-IS, 134, 158, 232, 

249, 262-65* 277, 294, 310-11, 316, 

317, tt9 
ducal, 107 
electoral, AV, 76, 99, 107, 178, 311, 

313, 319, m, 327 
Sr*& &i*j<7<*, 4K t 51 
Schcdcl, Hartuunn, 29 
Scholasticism, 121, 139, 141, 159, 166, 


Sduwgauer, Martin, 330 
Sch<*f*, 23-25, 27, 235, 335. See also 

Sctmm, Duns, 122 
Scripture, See Bible 
Seyll*, 255 

Seal, I .utter'* 222, 353 
Sedition, 376, See alw Revolution 
Scnfl, Ltidwig, 344 
Sernwn mi Qomt Works^ 136, 232 
Scnnon on the Mount, 4<S, 240, 267 
Sermons, 88-89, See (tlw Preaching 

Sicily, 306 



Sickingen, Franz von, 131, 133-34, 148, 

158, 168, 181, 197, 212-13 
Simony, 176 
Sin, mortal, 86 
Sinai, 41, 367 
Sins, seven, 54 
Sixtus IV, 79 
Sleep Well, 159 
Sodom, 149 
Soldiers, 234-35 
Spain, Spaniard, 103, 114, 121, 130, 142- 

43, 157, 168, 172-73, 176, 180-81, 

186, 248, 268, 273-74, 380, 385 
Spalatin, George, 90, 100, 101, 134, 160, 

179, 186, 194, 195, 197, 204-5, 209, 

287-89, 290, 327 
Spengler, Lazarus, 127, 157 

general, 208, 257-58, 266, 319, 326 
the Holy, 138, 147-48, 261, 263-64, 

343, 352 

versus letter, 257, 260-61 
State, the, 142, 243. See also Political 

Staupitz, John, 53, 54, 56, 58-60, 86, 

88, 94, 96, 100, 104, 143, 174, 195, 

226, 256 

Stotternheim, 21 
Strassburg, 87, 197, 265, 315, 317-19, 


Sturm, Caspar, 179, 181 
Swabia, 306-7 
Switzerland, Swiss, 121, 213, 267, 284, 

310, 317-20, 324 

Table Talk, 23, 295-98, 377 

Tarshish, 355 

Tauler, John, 353 

Ten Commandments, 54, 75, 226, 232, 

244, 298-99, 336-37 
Tetzel, John, 77-79, 84, 87, 89, 105, 

108, 145 

Thankfulness, 230 
Theocracy, 257, 262 
Theology, A German, 133 
Thief, the penitent, 29, 127 
Thisbe, 208 
Thuringia, 25, 52, 194, 213, 276, 329, 


Tithe, 273-74 
Torgau, 69, 158, 286, 312 
Transubstantiation. See Mass 
Treasury of merits, 47, 81, 94-96, 98, 

102, 145. See also Merits 

Trebonius, 25 

Trinity, 107, 108, 190, 219 

Trinity, The Roman, 131-32 

Turks, 92, 117, 147-48, 162, 164, 185, 

208, 227, 239, 253, 261, 296, 317, 

344, 355 

Twelve Articles, 273 
Tyndale, William, 384 
Tyranny, 163, 184, 243 

Ubiquity, 140, 224 

Ulfflas, 326 

Ulm, 310, 317 

Ulrich of Wurttemberg, 244 

Unamuno, 385 

Uniasts, 248 

Unigenitus, 94 

Usingen, 87 

Usury, 107, 236-37, 277, 351 

Valla, Lorenzo, 115, 124 

Vatican, 93, 104, 123, 164, 170 

Venice, 288, 365 

Vergil, 27, 368 

Veronica, 48 

Vienna, 107, 158 

Violence, 175, 190, 203-6, 209, 214, 243, 

249, 250, 262, 274 
Violence, Luther's, 149, 178, 189, 250, 


Visitation, 210, 313-14 
Vocation, 22, 201, 232, 245 
Vow, Luther's, 22, 34, 39, 96 
Vows, 177, 201 
Vulgarity, 296-97, 373, 380 
Vulgate, 88, 125, 326, 328, 345 

Walther, 342 

War, 240, 267 

Wartburg, 193-95, 197, 198, 202, 205, 
210, 214, 286, 322, 327 

Watts, Isaac, 384 

Westminster, 384 

Westphalia, 378 

William of Anhalt, 33, 45 

Wise Men, 71, 175, 368 

Witchcraft, 124 

Wittenberg, 46, 52, 69, 73-74, 76, 78, 
85, 87, 97, 100, 104, 106, 111, 125, 
133, 155, 157-58, 197, 201, 203-6, 
209-15, 232, 247-50, 252, 256, 258, 
265, 277, 281, 284, 286, 288, 306-10, 
315-16, 323, 327, 336, 339, 342, 
344, 348, 351-52, 383 
Concord, 320 



Wittenberg canted Wiirzburg, 281 

University of, 53, 73-74, 85, 94, 97, Wyclif, John, 115-17, 155, 177, 185 

99, 101, 106-7, 158, 172, 200 7ionhm 380 

Word of God, 135, 140-41, 181, 185, 7kk7 277 

214, 216, 224, 250, 271, 274, 277-78, 7ulsdorf 292 

315, 318, 326, 331, 337, 341, 343, ^ch, 213, 265, 267, 319 

348-49, 377 7,\vickau, 208, 214, 259, 260, 265, 312 

Works, good, 54, 228, 331, 334 '/willing, Gabriel, 197, 200, 203, 207 
Worms, Edict of, 149, 186, 189-90, 273, 210, 214, 312 

316, 318. See also Diets wingH, Ulrich, 121, 258, 266-67, 312 
Wurttemberg, 87, 244 314, 318-19, 321-22